The Kentucky House of Representatives has approved a bill that would give free community college tuition to all of Kentucky’s high school graduates.
Kentucky House Bill 626, under the “Work Ready Kentucky Scholarship Program” would provide free tuition to graduates, even home-schooled ones, who plan to attend community or technical colleges and maintain a minimum of 2.0 GPA.
The proposal would cost taxpayers about $20 million a year and could help 15,000-18,000 students each year. Kentucky high school graduates would still have to apply for federal and state scholarships but the state would cover the cost difference.
House Bill 626 targets students and families who make enough money not to warrant a financial aid but still struggle to pay college fees. Already enrolled college students do not qualify for the plan but still support it.
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“I wish I could have gotten that,” remarked Henderson Community College freshman Deiondre Martin. “I would have wanted to go to college for free but I’m here now and I’ll just enjoy the experience.”
The bill is modeled after a similar program in Tennessee.
"Our mission is really to promote education,” says Keith Bird, president of Gateway Community College. “So that's where it has the support of myself and my colleagues from the standpoint of what it can do to really build the workforce and essentially building the workforce is called economic development.”
The new law has the potential of yielding positive results, especially for students from poor backgrounds to pursue higher education. But it will also mean increased cost for colleges, a point that grabbed the attention of Sen. Rand Paul.
“If someone offers you something for free, treat it as if they’re offering you heroin,” Paul said in an interview earlier this year. “There’s nothing free. It just means somebody else is gonna pay for it, you don’t see them. So the plumber, the welder, the carpenter, the people who don’t go to college are being asked to pay for your education.”
It’s true that somebody will have to foot the bill for providing students with education but the same can be said about public libraries, police officers and even roads and highways. Should they be compared to illicit drugs as well?
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