Change may force some to leave NKU

A recent change by the Kentucky Transitional Assistance Program may hinder students from earning a four-year degree and has more than 500 people petitioning against it.

K-TAP, a program that temporarily assists families with dependent children, requires its recipients to work 20 hours per week to meet maximum income requirements to receive the monthly monetary support.

As of Oct. 1, students who use the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program and are working toward a four-year degree are no longer allowed to count hours they spend in class toward their total weekly work hours. Students who are working toward a two-year degree may still count their class hours in their weekly work hours.

“You’re halfway through a bachelor’s degree program and you’ve got student loans, and now you’re hit with the other requirements and you work 20 to 30 hours on top of that and you’re a single parent,” said Gail Messmer, NKU’s K-TAP coordinator. “You’ve got to wonder how you’re going to be able to juggle all that.”

In February 2006, Congress passed the Deficit Reduction Act of 2005, which reauthorizes the TANF program.

The class hours toward a bachelor’s or advanced degree will not count in the federal participation rates, Kelly A. Jackson, director of the Cabinet for Health and Family Services, the Department for Community-Based Services and the Division of Family Support, said in a letter.

Messmer began working as NKU’s coordinator in August, when she learned of the change.

The change didn’t let those who were already in the program still count their credit hours toward work.

The Women’s Empowerment group at NKU began an online petition that states, “Some, if not all, hours spent in higher education” count toward their weekly work hours. ”

The petition also points out the new change may hinder women in their career if it prevents them from earning a bachelor’s degree, and in turn, they will have a smaller salary.

“It makes it harder for the single parents who are already struggling,” Messmer said. “It sounds like it’s going to be much harder to juggle responsibilities and have time with their children.”

Messmer said it’s a big concern among families with dependent children and fears it will make a four-year degree seem more out of reach for a low-income family.

“If students quit school, their student loans will be due and they won’t be making enough money to pay them and take care of their families,” Messmer said. “It just doesn’t make sense.”