NKU can take your KEES

Officials at Northern Kentucky University have more control over whether or not some students will continue receiving the Kentucky Educational Excellence Scholarship, thanks to a Kentucky state law that went into effect in 2009.

Under the new law, students are subject to additional rules to remain eligible for the scholarship if their GPA falls below a 3.0 in their second year or later.

Commonly referred to as KEES, the program awards money to Kentucky’s college students based on their academic achievement when they attended high school in Kentucky. It is funded by lottery sales and unclaimed lottery awards.

The law changed the eligibility requirement only for students who began receiving KEES money in the fall 2009 semester. Students who were receiving the scholarship prior to fall 2009 will still be subject to the old requirements.

Eligibility requirements for the first year students receive the scholarship have not changed; students must keep their GPA above 2.5.

The law’s change applies to students whose GPA falls between 2.5 and 2.99 after their first year of receiving the scholarship. Under the old law, all students would receive half of their KEES money, but now students must meet an “on track to graduate requirement” and enrollment standards.

The law does not specify what it means for a student to be on track to graduate.

Megan Cummins, the KEES coordinator for the Kentucky Higher Education Assistance Authority, said the new law allows each university in Kentucky to set its own “on track to graduate” requirement, leaving room for a discrepancy in standards across the state. KHEAA administers several financial aid programs in Kentucky.

However, Leah Stewart, director of student financial assistance, explained via e-mail that Kentucky universities are “attempting to be consistent in implementing and enforcing this new legislation.”

According to a document provided by Stewart, students will need to have completed 48 credit hours after their second year to be considered on track to graduate. The document also states that there is no appeal process at NKU.

As long as students keep their GPA above 3.0, they will retain all of their KEES scholarship. But they will lose half or all of their award if their GPA drops to 2.99 or below after their second academic year.

For students to retain all of their KEES scholarships, their GPA must be between 2.5 and 2.99 and they must meet NKU’s “on track to graduate requirement.”

If they do not meet the “on track to graduate requirement,” full-time students are eligible for half of their KEES award, but part-time students will not receive any of their KEES money.

Cummins said most students just assume they will begin receiving their KEES award again once their GPA is above 2.5, but that is not the case. Once students raise their GPA, they must ask the financial aid office to resubmit their records for consideration.

The Kentucky Lottery Corp. awarded $214.4 million to Kentucky last year, which was almost 30 percent of lottery profits. Since 1999, the Kentucky Lottery has awarded $1.55 billion to the KEES program, creating 1,185,085 scholarships for Kentucky students, according to the Kentucky Lottery’s website.

Lottery sales have dropped over the last year, and the lottery is projecting $9 million less will be allocated to Kentucky, meaning there will be less given to scholarship programs, such as KEES. However, the funds from unclaimed lottery tickets goes to KEES. In 2010, this amounted to $13.6 milion more for the scholarship program.

Story by Cassie Stone