Thefourth meeting of the Subcommittee on Postsecondary Education of the Interim Joint Committee on Education was held on Monday, November 3, 2003, at 10:00 AM, in Room 149 of the Capitol Annex. Representative Mary Lou Marzian, Co-Chair, called the meeting to order, and the secretary called the roll.
Members:Senator Jack Westwood, Co-Chair; Representative Mary Lou Marzian, Co-Chair; Senators Gerald Neal and R.J. Palmer II; Representatives Hubert Collins, Bill Farmer, Mary Harper, Tom Riner, Charles Siler, and Kathy Stein.
Guests: Dennis Taulbee, Council on Postsecondary Education; and Terri Jo Reed, University of Kentucky.
LRC Staff: Jonathan Lowe and Rhonda Carter.
A motion was made by Representative Collins and seconded by Representative Stein to approve the minutes of the September 8, 2003 meeting. The motion was approved by voice vote.
Representative Marzian briefed the committee on the findings of the draft study of the Kentucky Educational Excellence Scholarship (KEES) program. She noted that the report collected information from a variety of sources including the Kentucky Higher Education Assistance Authority (KHEAA), the Council on Postsecondary Education (CPE), and the Kentucky Department of Education (KDE).
Representative Marzian reviewed key issues discussed in the report regarding access and affordability of college, including: 1) Postsecondary education is becoming less affordable; 2) Families are relying more on loans to pay for college; and 3) Kentucky has increased merit-based and need-based financial aid.
Representative Marzian also noted that the report states that it is estimated the funding from the Kentucky Lottery will be insufficient to fund KEES by $3.3 million in FY 1996. She then described how the report discusses the effect of differences in grading scales on KEES awards, and the results of a Legislative Research Commission (LRC) survey of teachers and guidance counselors regarding the effect of KEES on student and teacher behavior.
Senator Westwood then led the subcommittee in a discussion of the policy options and considerations outlined in the draft KEES report.
Representative Farmer commented on the importance of providing scholarship support to students of modest achievement who wish to attend technical schools.
Representative Collins asked for data on the number of GED recipients versus the number of high school graduates who enter college and are successful. LRC Education staff is checking on this information and will distribute it to committee members.
Representative Siler commented that the percentages of lottery funds allocated to need-based and merit-based student financial aid were arbitrary, and said he feels that need-based aid students should be given priority in funding. He wanted it noted that he does not believe the lottery is the only source of funds that Kentucky needs to use to provide need-based financial aid to students.
Representative Marzian responded by explaining the allocation of lottery money and its uses and then distributed draft language for a bill to allow government programs and services to be mentioned in advertising or promoting the lottery.
Representative Collins asked how much money came from the General Fund to pay for KEES scholarships, and said the general public needs an awareness as to how much is being spent from the general fund for educational issues.
Representative Siler made a motion to give priority to funding the need-based student financial aid program over the merit-based KEES program, in the event that no funds beyond net lottery proceeds are made available for student financial aid and net lottery proceeds are insufficient to meet program needs. The motion was seconded by Representative Stein, and approved by voice vote.
Representative Collins asked what happens to those students who do not need the scholarship money due to other sources of support. He asked, If the money is not needed, does the college get the money, or the student? A representative of the CPE clarified that a student receives KEES awards regardless of support from other sources or a student’s ability to pay.
Representative Farmer commented that it would make sense to limit KEES awards in those instances that students are receiving support from other sources.
Representative Stein asked what happens to the additional monies left over after college tuition and fees are covered for need-based financial aid students through the KEES program, and Representative Marzian said it could be used for room and board expenses.
Senator Westwood reminded committee members that Kentucky has been recognized for balancing need-based and merit-based student financial aid.
Dr. Joe McCormick, Executive Director, KHEAA, spoke in support of fully funding the scholarship program without total reliance upon lottery proceeds. He said Kentucky will keep falling short if only lottery proceeds are relied upon to fund KEES.
Representative Marzian discussed Kentucky requiring students to complete federal financial aid forms in order to receive funds. She said Kentucky is one of the few states that does not require students to fill out forms to receive merit-based scholarships. This eliminates one potential barrier to access to financial aid, as some low-income students may not pursue applications for aid, due to the perception that the cost of college is out of reach. Requiring completion of the federal Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) form would reinstate the barrier. Representative Marzian said that requiring students to fill out a FAFSA form would assist low-income students in getting access to federal student financial aid, including need-based Pell Grants.
Representative Collins said counseling is needed in the high schools to make students aware that they can attend college, and that monies are available.
Representative Farmer said the FAFSA form was not user-friendly, and that parents are required to complete the forms because of certain tax information that has to be supplied. Therefore, the student does not obtain any money unless the parents take the time to accurately and completely fill out the forms.
Representative Marzian asked what income tax information has to be used, and if it has to be for the current year. Representative Farmer commented that some people cannot get the tax information by the deadline.
Representative Marzian discussed the issue of whether and how to specify in statute the manner in which KEES awards ought to be decreased, in the event cuts are required. CPE currently has the authority, under KRS 164.7879, to promulgate administrative regulations to adjust award amount, subject to the availability of funds. CPE has requested guidance from the General Assembly regarding how cuts should be made: 1) Through cuts to high school students providing longer-term savings or cuts to college students, providing more immediate savings; or 2) By lowering amounts for current achievement levels on GPA and ACT, or raising the standard to receive KEES awards. She said depending on the timing of implementation in relation to budgetary considerations, students already in college, or awards earned by high school students, may be cut.
Senator Westwood said any savings or changes implemented into the KEES scholarship would not begin until the freshman class of next year, and Kentucky would not realize the savings for four years.
Representative Siler said that the determination of award amounts by raising the GPA and ACT scores needed to be eligible to receive KEES awards could ultimately take money away from students with financial need. He feels that the needs test should be the only test required for all students. Representative Marzian said there would need to be statutory language added to include a needs test for KEES.
Senator Westwood commented that some students test well and other students do not. The committee then discussed the effects of differing grading scales in different schools across the state. Representative Marzian said there should be some legislation that reflects fairness to all students across the state.
Representative Riner commented on the GPA score requirements for KEES recipients, and said the bar should be higher. Representative Marzian would like more information on students and their GPA scores, and how they do after enrolling in college. Representative Farmer said many students that meet the 2.5 GPA requirement utilize the KEES money for vocational schools, and they should not be punished by raising the GPA higher. He said students with higher income levels can also afford to take the test more.
Representative Siler commented on the value of pursuing a trade as opposed to a degree.
Representative Marzian discussed adjusting the KEES award scholarship determination process to allow students and parents to know the exact amount of KEES awards prior to the beginning of their first semester in college. She said the KEES awards are based on eight semesters of high school grades, including the spring semester of the senior year. The calendar for submission of final grades and the processing required makes it difficult for students and parents to know the exact amount of their KEES award before school starts. She said this creates difficulties for families who are struggling to budget for college, and using seven semesters instead of eight to calculate the award amount would solve the administrative problem, but remove a motivational incentive for students to maintain effort during the spring semester of their senior year. She said one potential solution, with its own additional administrative problems, would be to calculate the initial KEES award using seven semesters of grades, and calculate an adjusted award for the remaining semesters of eligibility.
Senator Westwood said being a former teacher, he understands the reasoning behind the idea of using seven semesters, and using the eighth semester for an award adjustment.
Representative Marzian discussed eligibility for KEES and providing scholarship funds to support GED recipients to pursue postsecondary education, potentially in a program separate from KEES. She said GED recipients are currently eligible for only the supplemental KEES award based on ACT scores, with a maximum of $500.00. Efforts to improve the level of educational attainment of Kentucky’s workforce include the need to create opportunities for people to move beyond the GED, and Kentucky has a large population of undereducated adults over 25 years of age. Representative Marzian noted that the cost of postsecondary education is a barrier for many adults to consider pursuing higher education, and this option would have a significant additional cost.
Representative Marzian referred the members to the letter from Commissioner Gene Wilhoit in their packets. The letter asks the members to consider two suggestions that would support high school students who are ready to take more rigorous coursework resulting in college credit. It discussed dual credit opportunities in the junior and senior years for providing motivation and connection to real-world jobs that these students would not otherwise appreciate. A barrier for many of these students is the college tuition associated with dual credit; because they have not graduated they cannot access KEES and because they are still in high school they are not able to apply for federal financial aid. So students from families who do not have sufficient financial resources to assist are unable to take advantage of these opportunities.
Representative Marzian said the second suggestion in the letter from Commissioner Wilhoit was to consider allowing high school students to access KEES funds to reimburse the cost of AP exams if they score a “3” or higher which qualifies for college credit. The federal funds that paid these fees for poor and minority students in the past are expiring and there is a large population of students who are not able to sit for the exams unless the fee is paid or subsidized. Although many of these students would still struggle to fund the initial cost of the exams, this proposal would greatly assist them.
Representative Marzian asked the members for comments on providing scholarship funds to support GED recipients to pursue postsecondary education, potentially in a program separate from KEES. Representative Siler said he thought it should be highly sought after and it would have value. Senator Westwood said it should be supported up to $500.00. Representative Siler said there could be a money source such as a block grant through KEES.
Representative Marzian suggested that staff do some research on how many GED students there are and get some current data on this subject. She also asked if permitting high school students to use projected KEES awards to pay for the cost of advanced placement exams would reduce the award. Representative Riner said it would be a good thing to use projected KEES monies.
Representative Riner made the motion to permit high school students to use projected KEES awards to pay for dual credit courses. Representative Farmer seconded the motion, and it was approved by voice vote.
The subcommittee discussed the policy option of permitting students to use KEES out-of-state. Representative Riner said it benefits Kentucky to have Harvard students return to Kentucky. He commented on a story of a constituent who was accepted into Harvard, but did not have the money to attend, and said it should have a been a needs-based financial aid situation. Representative Collins said there should be an avenue to get people into the type schools such as Harvard, yet KEES was intended to encourage students to stay in Kentucky for postsecondary education.
Representative Marzian discussed permitting the use of KEES scholarships by students enrolled at institutions offering a degree program of study comprised solely of religious instruction should be implemented in conjunction with the study. She said based on legislative action in the 2003 General Assembly, current law permits KEES funding to be used for pursuit of a degree in theology, divinity, or religious instruction, but only at an institution that offers an associate or baccalaureate degree program of study not comprised solely of sectarian instruction. She also said the current session of the United States Supreme Court will be deciding a case regarding the constitutionally of a similar prohibition.
Regarding the policy option of providing KEES awards based on the Commonwealth Accountability Testing System (CATS) scores, Senator Westwood said the CATS test was only reliable on a school level and not on a student level. He said this would have to be studied further before any action could be taken.
Senator Westwood stated he had a problem with educational scholarships being associated with marketing for the lottery. He is concerned about the message it sends out especially to gambling addicted parents.
Representative Collins said it is up to agencies in Kentucky to tell the people of the Commonwealth where the lottery funds are used in educational programs, and not the lottery corporation.
The subcommittee requested several additional information items. They included: 1) Enrollment, retention rates, and GPA for GED recipients versus high school graduates attending college; 2) Estimates of the cost of permitting students to use KEES to attend out-of-state institutions; 3) KEES funding in relation to other sources of state student aid, including need-based College Access Program (CAP) and Kentucky Tuition Grant program (KTG); 4) Distribution of KEES awards for students who receive scholarship money from other sources; and 5) the number of students and amount of KEES awards that would be affected by increasing the minimum GPA to 3.0 and the minimum ACT score to 18 to receive a KEES award.
The subcommittee asked staff to summarize the recommendations they had approved. They were: 1) Give priority to funding the need-based student financial aid programs over the merit-based KEES program, in the event that no funds beyond net lottery proceeds are made available for student financial aid and net lottery proceeds are insufficient to meet program needs; 2) Use a student’s numeric grade score average rather than grade point average to determine annual KEES base amount, beginning with the 9th grade class for the 2005-2006 school year (subject to formal adoption by the subcommittee December 1, 2003); 3) Permit high school students to use projected KEES awards to pay for dual credit courses; and 4) Permit high school students to use projected KEES awards to pay for the cost of taking advanced placement exams.
The next subcommittee meeting will be December 1, 2003, at 10:00 a.m. in Room 149. Senator Westwood asked members for any thoughts or ideas for the meeting to be given to him by November 21, 2003.
With no further business before the committee, the meeting adjourned at 11:30 a.m.