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Today's News Full Articles for 2/6/2014

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Today's News

Thursday, February 06, 2014

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Note: News items are reproduced as published. Errors in grammar or accuracy are the responsibility of the copyright owner.

System News

Local Student's Artwork Chosen for Challenger Learning Center at Paducah's New Year's Card Cover
By Tammy Thompson

​Lone Oak Middle School seventh grader Johnathon Kirkpatrick created the patch that has been chosen to be on the front cover of the Challenger Learning Center at Paducah's 2013 New Year's Card. Framed copies of the card were recently presented to him and the school. 

 

Kirkpatrick created the patch last school year in Ms. Alyson Calhoun's science class while preparing for his class trip to fly a simulated space mission to return to the moon at the center. "Johnathon's patch features an eagle and American flag on the moon. It's a great representation of the moon mission," said Mellisa Duncan, center director.

 

The cards are sent to the contributors and patrons of the Challenger Learning Center including teachers, superintendents, legislators, campers, board members and donors. A card is even sent to the White House.

 

The center also chooses eleven other patches to include it its annual calendar.  The schools and students represented in the calendar include:

 

January- Stephanie Winsten and Taylor Duncan, Dixon Elementary, Webster County

February- Eugene Lee, Community Christian Academy

March- Johnathon Kirkpatrick, Lone Oak Middle School

April- Bailey Hutchison, 4-H

May- Claire Thurmond, Southwest Calloway Elementary School

June- Max Thompson, Reidland Elementary School

July- Sebastian Camacho, Heath Middle School

August- Isaac Medley, Lone Oak Elementary School

September- Ben Fithen, Ballard Middle School

October- Greg Wilson, Reidland Middle School

November- Meg Panor, Paducah Middle School

December- Gionvannie McCoy, Jackson Christian School, TN

 

"This is the seventh year we have produced a calendar and we are very proud to be able to showcase our students' artwork in such a useable format for all to see," said Duncan.

 

The Challenger Learning Center at Paducah is located on the campus of West Kentucky Community and Technical College. For more information about the center please visit www.clcpaducah.org.


Local Author To Visit WKCTC for Presentation and Book Signing February 10
By Tammy Thompson

​Mayfield resident and author Traci Lawrence will visit West Kentucky Community and Technical College on February 10 to provide tips and techniques for living a life of wholeness.

 

Lawrence will present a free one-hour presentation to share her vast experiences, including 22 years in mental health and social service as well as 19 years in health and fitness. She will be sharing her insights from her book The Way of Truth to a Life of Wholeness, published in August 2013.

 

The book explores Biblical principles to guide readers to develop and enjoy wholeness in life, asserting personal wholeness as physical wellness, mental clarity, strong spiritual health, financial stability, and thriving and fulfilling relationships.

 

"Traci is going to teach the audience how to apply those ideals to our lives," said Kim Russell, WKCTC English program coordinator and event organizer. "This is a great opportunity for our faculty, staff, students, and community members to develop or enhance these important skills and qualities."

 

Lawrence is the founder of The Lighthouse, a shelter for women with children in Mayfield, KY, and served thirteen years as executive director for this faith-based, non-profit organization. She is also founder, owner, and operator of The Way of Wellness. Additionally, she and her husband Jeff Lawrence currently host the weekly radio show, Abundant Living.

 

The event is free and open to the public.  Following her presentation, Lawrence will answer questions from the audience and sign copies of her book.  Copies will be available for purchase.

 

For more information about the presentation, contact Kim Russell, WKCTC English program coordinator, at (270) 534-3203 or kim.russell@kctcs.edu .


REASONABLE KCTCS capital bonds plan sensible way to meet needs
By Editorial, The Paducah Sun

​We cast a wary eye whenever Kentucky talks about increasing bonded indebtedness. The commonwealth had debt obligations (including pensions) of about $64 billion at the end of 2012, or almost $14,600 per person. In August 2012 Barron's, one of the nation's leading financial publications, ranked Kentucky 47th in the nation in financial health because of the state's pension deficit and high total debt per capita.

Hamstrung by this debt burden, the Legislature has been unable for the past three biennial sessions to fund capital projects for the state's community and technical college system (KCTCS) despite the fact that with 92,000 enrolled students, it is by far Kentucky's largest higher education institution.

So this time around Gov. Steve Beshear and system president Michael McCall are pitching a more novel approach. The governor has asked for $145.5 million in "agency bonds" that would be funded by KCTCS itself, rather than the state's general fund. That money would go to underwrite 75 percent of the cost of one capital project for each of the state's 16 community/technical colleges. The colleges and their local supporters will be responsible for raising the remaining 25 percent of the amounts needed to launch the projects.

In the case of West Kentucky Community and Technical College in Paducah it would translate into $7.5 million toward the roughly $10 million needed to convert the former Kitchens Inc. building on Harrison Street into the linchpin of WKCTC's fast-growing Paducah School of Art and Design. The school has grown to more than 400 students in its six years of existence despite operating from an array of temporary quarters. The 30,000 square foot Kitchens Inc. building would with renovation provide permanent quarters and modern studios for the program, while meshing neatly with the surrounding historic and arts district in Lower Town.

Paducah already has a head start on the local funding effort, having kicked off a fundraiser in July that has logged more than $650,000 in pledges.

But the KCTCS share of the funding still requires legislative approval. The community colleges have not in the past had authority from the state to issue "agency bonds" - that is, bonds on which they themselves are liable. And the funding of those bonds will not be without pain. The money will come from a KCTCS student "capital fee" that will start at $4 per credit hour this fall and increase to $8 per credit hour in later years.

KCTCS officials also conceded this week that the capital fees are independent of tuition increases likely to be implemented in coming years to meet other general needs of the colleges.

That is of course a concern. We have expressed the view in the past that tuition and fees at Kentucky's two- and four-year colleges have been rising too fast - much faster than inflation and personal income - and that to the extent Kentucky sees more college graduates as the key to its future economic success, this has become a serious headwind.

But on balance, we believe the bonding proposal is a good one, and the legislature should authorize it to go forward. The fact significant local money as well as student fees are required to fund these projects makes them self-limiting in a way that should weed out ambitions that are extravagant or lacking in local support.

It is unfortunate that much of this must be accomplished on the backs of students via the new fees, but that is a consequence of reckless legislative spending sprees of the recent past, in which both parties were complicit, which have left the state tapped out for investments as basic as these. We think under the circumstances this is the best and most reasonable way forward.

Source:  The Paducah Sun


Proposal would bring first new construction to SKYCTC on BG campus in 17 years
By Chuck Mason, The Daily News

​Southcentral Kentucky Community and Technical College could receive the first new building on its main Bowling Green campus since 1997 under an agency-bond financing proposal advanced by Gov. Steve Beshear.

If approved by lawmakers, SKYCTC could receive a $22 million, 72,000-square-foot classroom building under what Beshear called the Kentucky Community and Technical College System BuildSmart Investment for Kentucky Competitiveness.

DN Blank rail NEWS short 
 
 

The new construction push across the commonwealth will not use money from the state’s General Fund, said Phil Neal, president and chief executive officer of SKYCTC.

Agency bonds – where the college institutions pay the debt service of the state bonds over time – have been used at the state’s universities, most recently to fund a $22 million Honors College and International Center at Western Kentucky University at Bowling Green in a proposal approved by the state lawmakers last legislative session. It also included renovation of the University of Kentucky’s Commonwealth Stadium.

However, agency bonds haven’t been used for the state’s community colleges until now. The governor’s proposal must be approved by the Kentucky General Assembly.

“This allows infrastructure across the entire state,” Neal said Tuesday “This is a huge return on the investment. This kind of process has not been used before (by KCTCS).”

The state would issue $145.5 million in agency bonds to KCTCS, which would provide 75 percent of the financing of $194 million worth of projects at the 16 community colleges in the KCTSC system.

Locally, that would mean $16.5 million for the cost of the new classroom building, Neal said. SKYCTC would raise $5.5 million locally to complete the financing, Neal said. “This will be a public-private collaboration.”

The details on the classroom space are still being worked out, the college president said. The plan is to have what is called “flexible” space, meaning classroom walls are moveable. “You don’t lock yourself into one design,” he said.

Neal envisions a building equipped with the latest technology that also has areas where students can congregate to learn from each other. “People are excited about it,” Neal said of the plan. He said faculty, students, staff and the community will be involved in the planning process for the new building, which is similar in size to the Simpson County campus building constructed in Franklin. That building was funded through a state appropriation, Neal said.

SKYCYC served 16,000 people last year in its training and classroom programs in a 10-county area, Neal said. KCTCS served 135,000 across its 16 campuses.

“We appreciate the support of the governor. Now this has to work its way through the legislative process,” Neal said.

“Our community and technical college system is one of our most important tools in building a stronger, more agile and adaptable workforce,” Beshear stated in a press release. “Yet, as our campuses have swelled with students, we haven’t been able to keep up with the system’s broad infrastructure needs.”

House Speaker Greg Stumbo said it is an ideal time to invest further in education. “There is no doubt that these projects are needed. By including local support, we can stretch our tax dollars even further,” Stumbo stated in the release.

The bonds would be paid for by student fees, which eventually amount to $8 per credit hour taken, Kentucky Community and Technical College System President Michael McCall said Monday.

For students taking 15-hour class loads in a semester, the fee would amount to $120.

At a news conference to promote the construction proposal, McCall said officials were looking at phasing in the fee, starting at $4 per credit hour this fall, then topping out at $8 per credit hour the following year.

Source:  The Daily News


Ky. Fire Commission investigating Southeast Bullitt Fire Dept.
By Valerie Chinn, WDRB

​A local fire department is under investigation, accused of falsifying training records.

Each month, the Kentucky Fire Commission gives paid firefighters money for training, and volunteer firefighters who attend training get money for their departments.

"There's been a lot of falsified training sheets," said Gabe DiEnno, a former volunteer firefighter with the Southeast Bullitt Fire Department.

Strong allegations against the Southeast Bullitt Fire Department where DiEnno used to be a volunteer firefighter.

"At the fire station, they would have their board meetings, and every now and then, the training sheets would be out on the table for everyone to sign," DiEnno said. "If you weren't in the training, it would be okay for you to sign them."

On Tuesday, two auditors with the Kentucky Fire Commission were at the fire department to investigate if names have been added to training records.

"We have found discrepancies in some of their training records," said Bruce Roberts, the Division Director for the KY Fire Commission said. "What it is... firefighters are required to get so many hours per year for training to either receive state aid or incentive pay, and what they do at each class is fill out a training roster of all participants -- and we have found a little discrepancy in the rosters."

Fire Chief Julius Hatfield, who didn't want to go on camera, says over the last couple of months, he fired DiEnno and two other volunteer firefighters for various reasons, and another paid firefighter quit. Hatfield denies that his department falsified any records.

"What we're looking at is to see if participants were actually there," Roberts said. "We'll take rosters we have, compared to rosters they have, to see how they all compare."

Joey Stinnett, a former volunteer firefighter who was also fired, says the concerns for the community include, "lack of training of personnel...their tax money is really being not used right."

The Kentucky Fire Commission says there are three options: it could decide to interview firefighters and continue fact gathering, present the info to the Education and Eligibility Committee which is made up of Fire Commission Board members appointed by the Governor, or take no action at all.

With safety and taxpayer money on the line, the Fire Commission says it's trying to find out the truth.

Roberts says, "If you are a career firefighter, you get an incentive pay of $3,100 a year to have these training hours. If you belong to a volunteer fire department, 50 percent of your people have to have at least 20 hours training to receive $8250 a year for state aid."

He says state aid goes to the individual departments.

The Kentucky Fire Commission says the investigation could take up to two months.

Source:  WDRB


Latest KCTCS News Releases

The latest KCTCS news releases can always be found on KCTCS.edu.

State News

How Governor's Tax Plan Differs from Tax Commission's Recommendations
By Jason Baily, Kentucky Center for Economic Policy

​Many of the proposals in Governor Beshear’s tax plan come from his Blue Ribbon Commission on Tax Reform. But his plan is also different—it leaves measures out that were included in the commission's recommendations while adding some new proposals. Here's a rundown of major changes between the commission's recommendations and the governor's plan.

Raises Less New Money Overall

One big difference between the commission recommendations and the governor's plan has to do with the amount of revenue raised. The commission's final report includes ideas that together would create a net $659 million in new revenue. The governor's plan, in contrast, raises only $210 million upon full implementation.

One of the five principles that the commission used to guide its tax reform proposal was adequacy. A considerable amount of public testimony and some commission discussion concerned the many needs in the state budget in areas like education and health. That's why the commission generated a plan that raised more new revenue to begin reinvesting in Kentucky after 13 rounds of budget cuts that have sliced $1.6 billion out of state spending.

Eliminates or Weakens Some Revenue-Raising and Progressive Measures

A major way the governor’s tax plan raises less money than the commission’s plan is that it leaves out or weakens some revenue-raising measures that the commission included. Most notably, it leaves out the limit on itemized deductions for higher income people that would have raised $350 million by capping deductions at $17,500. That limit would only have affected high earners. Four of Kentucky’s surrounding states don’t allow itemized deductions at all.

The governor’s plan also drops a proposed utility gross receipts tax of 1 percent that would have raised $102 million. And while it keeps a measure that phases out the exclusion of retirement income from the income tax for wealthier people, it starts the phase out at a higher level of income than the commission had proposed. That means it raises approximately $310 million less than the commission’s plan.

The governor’s plan does not include the commission’s proposal to lower the threshold of minimum gross receipts by which businesses organized as limited liability entities must pay the limited liability entity tax. The commission proposed to lower that threshold from $3 million to $1 million, which would have raised $13 million. The reason to lower the threshold is that 82 percent of limited liability entities don’t pay the tax at all—paying a $175 fee instead—because their receipts are below $3 million.

Nor does the governor’s plan address House Bill 44, the law passed in the 1970s that limits property tax growth. At the state level, the limit has driven down the property tax rate on real estate from 31.5 cents per $100 in 1979 to 12.2 cents today, meaning over $500 million in lost revenue this year. The commission had proposed to freeze the state property tax rate at 12 cents, which would prevent future cuts.

The governor’s plan includes a refundable Earned Income Tax Credit, as the commission recommended. But it reduces the size of the credit from 15 percent of the federal credit to 7.5 percent. That reduces the size of the average credit Kentucky families will receive from $345 to $173.

Adds More Business Tax Cuts

On top of business tax cuts recommended by the commission, the governor’s plan adds a sales tax exemption on pharmaceuticals for livestock, doubles the New Markets tax credit and reduces the wholesale tax on beer, wine and distilled spirits. In total, the plan includes 12 business tax cuts that total $234 million in lost revenue, including breaks for the bourbon and horse industry and cuts in business property taxes. At the same time, it drops a commission proposal that the state’s tax incentive programs and other tax expenditures be subject to a formal review at least once every five years.

The estimated cost of the largest business tax cut in both plans—a shift to calculating corporate income taxes owed based solely on sales in Kentucky—has grown. While the commission’s final report estimated a cost of $110 million, the governor’s plan puts the cost at $154 million. That proposal alone eliminates about one-third of Kentucky’s corporate income taxes.

In addition to leaving out the proposal to raise more in limited liability entity taxes mentioned above, the governor’s plan also omitted a measure that would have eliminated a tax break called the “domestic production deduction.” That’s a break that exists only because of a federal law change which 22 states have chosen not to follow. The deduction provides no incentive for companies to locate in Kentucky as opposed to another state, and that’s why the commission had proposed eliminating it to gain $4 million.

Expands the Sales Tax to More Services

The commission proposed raising only $106 million through an initial expansion of the sales tax to services. The commission didn’t specify particular services, but the revenue estimate was based on legislation introduced previously in the General Assembly. The governor’s broader expansion would raise $280 million by including additional new services in the sales tax.

$143 million of that revenue is from taxing the labor on installation, repair and maintenance services—including machinery and equipment, auto repair, and computer hardware and software. $35 million is from recreational activities including fitness clubs and golf courses. And $102 million is from a variety of commercial, residential and personal services including landscaping, janitorial services and laundry services.

Source:  Kentucky Center for Economic Policy


House Education Committee approves coal-scholarship bill for college students
By Staff, Berea Online

​Legislation sponsored by House Speaker Greg Stumbo and state Rep. Leslie Combs to boost the number of bachelor’s degrees in coal-producing counties took a step closer to becoming law this morning, when the House of Representatives’ Education Committee voted unanimously for House Bill 2.

The legislation would make a pilot program begun by Governor Beshear in 2012 permanent and expand its coverage area to include all 34 coal-producing counties.

“The governor’s program has shown that there is a lot of demand, especially in the eastern part of the state, from students who want to pursue their four-year degree close to home,” said House Speaker Stumbo, D-Prestonsburg. “If we can make this program permanent, and double the scholarship amount as Governor Beshear proposes, I am confident we will see these numbers increase significantly.”

Rep. Combs, a Pikeville legislator who worked for years as chief financial officer at what is now the University of Pikeville, agreed. “Studies show that students in our region are attending college at a rate well above the state average, but for a variety of reasons are not continuing their education to get that four-year degree. This program, however, is giving them an additional incentive, and it will better ensure that they remain close to home once they complete their education.”

The legislation is virtually identical to Rep. Combs’ bill last year that passed the House unanimously but did not clear the Senate until it was too late to send the bill to Governor Beshear.

If it becomes law, students would need to meet several criteria before being eligible for a grant:

· Live in a coal-producing county at least a year;

· Have at least 60 credit hours at a qualifying school; and

· Be enrolled at least half-time in upper-level courses at a qualifying postsecondary school that is either based in a coal-producing county or has a satellite campus there.

The amount of each grant would vary, depending on how much financial aid the student already receives. The most a student could receive a year is $6,800 to attend a non-profit, independent four-year college and $2,300 to attend a satellite campus of a public four-year university or a regional postsecondary center. There also would be grant money available if the student’s degree program is not available in a coal-producing county.

Under Governor Beshear’s proposed budget, which the House is now considering, the pilot program would get $2 million in Multi-County Fund coal-severance dollars a year. So far, more than 540 students have taken advantage of the program, and nearly 100 received a bachelor’s degree in the 2013 school year.

House Bill 2 will now be considered by the full House.

HB 2 BILL SUMMARY

KENTUCKY COAL COUNTY COLLEGE COMPLETION PROGRAM

HB 2 provides 1) scholarships for students from coal-producing counties attending higher education institutions located in those counties to encourage bachelor’s degree completion and students to remain in the area and 2) grants to community and technical colleges for improving outreach and advising services.

HB 2 is different from 2013 HB 210 (passed the House 97-0) in the following ways:

· The maximum scholarship amounts were increased 3% to correspond with the increase in tuition at the public comprehensive universities from 2012-2013 to 2013-2014.

· References to academic year 2013-2014 were updated to 2014-2015.

· The first annual report submission date was updated from 2014 to 2015.

(The coal county scholarship language contained in SCA 1 to 2013 HB 160 language, which passed the Senate 34-4, mirrored the HB 210 language.)

County Eligibility

· The program “district” is comprised of the following 34 coal-producing counties in eastern and western Kentucky (as of January 2014): Bell, Boyd, Breathitt, Clay, Daviess, Elliott, Floyd, Hancock, Harlan, Henderson, Hopkins, Jackson, Johnson, Knott, Knox, Laurel, Lawrence, Leslie, Letcher, Magoffin, Martin, Menifee, Morgan, Muhlenberg, Ohio, Owsley, Perry, Pike, Pulaski, Rockcastle, Union, Webster, Whitley, and Wolfe.

Kentucky Coal County College Completion Scholarship

Student Eligibility Students must:

Ø Be at least a one-year resident of the district;

Ø Have earned at least 60 credits toward a bachelor’s degree; and

Ø Be enrolled at least half-time in upper division courses in a bachelor’s degree program at an eligible institution in the district.

· Students may use the grant to attend certain public or independent institutions outside the district if they are pursuing a program of study not offered by any institution in the district (limited to 5% of the amount appropriated for the scholarships).

· A student may receive the scholarship for up to five full-time fall or spring semesters or their equivalent.

Institutional Eligibility

· Eligible higher education institutions must be physically located in the district, offer bachelor’s degree programs, and be:

Ø An independent, nonprofit college or university whose main campus is based in the district;

Ø A four-year public university extension campus; or

Ø A regional postsecondary education center.

Institutions included:

Ø Independent Institutions: Alice Lloyd College, Brescia University, Kentucky Wesleyan College, Union College, University of the Cumberlands, and University of Pikeville.

Ø Four-Year Public Extension Campuses: EKU – Corbin, Manchester, and Somerset; Morehead State – Ashland, Prestonsburg, and West Liberty; Murray State – Henderson and Madisonville; and WKU – Owensboro.

Ø Regional Postsecondary Education Centers: North East (Floyd), South East (Laurel), and University Center of the Mountains (Perry).

Scholarship Amount:

· The scholarship amount is determined on a per student basis. It will be 40% of the amount remaining after subtracting the student’s federal and state grants and scholarships (i.e., PELL, CAP, KTG, KEES) from the institution’s tuition and mandatory fees.

· The maximum annual grant amounts are:

Ø $6,800 for attending a nonprofit, independent institution;

Ø $2,300 for attending a public university extension campus or regional postsecondary education center; and

Ø $3,400 for attending an institution outside the district for a program of study not offered in the district.

· The maximum grant amounts will be increased each academic year by the total average percentage increase in tuition at the six comprehensive universities.

Kentucky Coal County College Completion Student Services Grants

· The program provides annual maximum $150,000 grants to Kentucky Community and Technical College System institutions located in the district – Ashland, Big Sandy, Hazard, Henderson, Madisonville, Owensboro, Somerset, and Southeast.

· The grants are for expanding outreach to students in high schools; advising resources; and retention, completion, and transfer initiatives.

Funding and Administration

· The program will be funded by coal severance taxes (Local Government Economic Development Fund/Single & Multi-County Funds).

· The program will be administered by the Kentucky Higher Education Assistance Authority.

Source:  Berea Online


College senior says Coal County scholarship has been big boost
By Valarie Honeycutt Spears, Lexington Herald-Leader

​Hanna McIntosh, a senior at University of Pikeville, said she is earning a four-year degree with help from a pilot scholarship program for students in coal-producing counties.

McIntosh, 22, a communications major from Phelps, said she was encouraged that a House Education Committee approved a bill Tuesday that would make the program permanent so more students can get a four-year degree.

McIntosh said for her, the scholarship "was a blessing" and said her mother is seeking the scholarship to continue her nursing studies.

Under House Bill 2, sponsored by House Speaker Greg Stumbo, multicounty coal severance tax dollars would provide scholarships to college juniors and seniors, and help them complete a four-year-degree.

"One of the problems that we have in Eastern Kentucky is that we export not only our coal and our minerals but we've exported a lot of our talent," Stumbo, D-Prestonsburg, told the committee.

Gov. Steve Beshear recommended in his biennial budget that $2 million each year in coal severance tax money be used for the Kentucky Coal County College Completion program.

That would double the scholarship money in 34 coal-producing counties, Stumbo said.

The Kentucky Higher Education Assistance Authority would administer the scholarships.

Participating schools would include Alice Lloyd College, Brescia University, Kentucky Wesleyan College, Union College, University of the Cumberlands, and University of Pikeville.

Stumbo said that the bachelor's degree attainment level in counties in southeastern and Eastern Kentucky is significantly lower than the state and national average. He attributed that to the lack of a four-year public university in southeastern Kentucky.

The pilot program started by Beshear in 2012 was a compromise stemming from a fight over making the University of Pikeville a state university. Supporters said taking UPike public would improve college access to southeastern Kentuckians. Opponents said it would take financing from already-suffering state universities.

In the pilot program, 540 students have participated, and the average scholarship was about $2,700, Stumbo said. So far, he said, 91 students have graduated with four-year bachelor's degrees. "Those are 91 kids who will stay in this region," he said.

The bill's co-sponsor State Rep. Leslie Combs, D-Pikeville, who had also sponsored similar legislation in 2013, said, "If they are educated in the region, they stay in the region."

Under the legislation, Students need to have 60 credit hours before applying for the scholarships, which range from $2,300 to $6,800 a year. Unless the courses they need aren't offered in their region, students must attend postsecondary institutions or extension campuses in designated coal-producing counties. The counties include those in Western Kentucky.

Stumbo's bill also would provide grants of as much as $150,000 to help community and technical colleges in coal-producing counties to enhance student support services and program offerings.

Developing a well-educated work force and seeing economic growth in coal-producing counties is one of the goals of the legislation, lawmakers said Tuesday.

McIntosh said she and her mother, Lillie Dotson, planned to stay in the Pikeville area after they complete their undergraduate degrees.

"It has truly been a positive thing for this community and this university," McIntosh said.

Source:  Lexington Herald-Leader


National News

Is Free Better?
By Paul Fain, Inside Higher Ed

​Making community college free has become a hot idea. Over the last two weeks politicians in Tennessee, Oregon and Mississippi have proposed a tuition-free first two years of community college for their states’ high school graduates.

Higher education leaders have welcomed the attention, as well as possible new pots of money aimed at lower-income students.

Terry W. Hartle, senior vice president of the American Council on Education, said the proposal from Tennessee’s governor, Bill Haslam, was "extraordinarily important." He said it could be as "potentially far-reaching" as any state-based student access push since the creation of Georgia's HOPE scholarship in the early '90s.

However, Hartle and several other experts said the funding proposals raise significant questions. They urged a cautious, thoughtful approach and warned about a range of possible unintended consequences – such as driving students away from public, four-year institutions.

"This is not a minor proposition," Hartle said. "This will cost a lot of money."

More strategic ways of using state support could actually do a better job of helping students who need it the most, some said.

Kay McClenney, director of the Center for Community College Student Engagement, said state scholarship funds for lower-income students are often short of money.

For example, Oregon’s Opportunity Grant, a need-based scholarship program, is “terribly underfunded,” said Elizabeth Cox Brand, director of communications and research for the state’s Department of Community Colleges and Workforce Development. That story is repeated around much of the country.

Some lawmakers may be feeling relatively flush as their states emerge from the recession. But McClenney said they must be careful about how they spend their “limited public funds” for higher education. By making tuition free for all, she said states run the risk of “subsidizing large numbers of people who don’t need the support.”

Hartle said the resulting expansion of student access could create challenges, particularly if the plans do not factor in students' likelihood of success. Without well-designed conditions, the tuition-free proposals "might be setting the institutions up to fail," he said.

Even so, Hartle and McClenney praised lawmakers in the three states for trying to help the most vulnerable of college students.

“The interest and the sentiment are powerfully welcome,” said McClenney.

Major new funding proposals aimed at community college students are rare. And badly needed state support could draw more lower-income students into college and help them get to graduation.

“We know that many potential students, especially underrepresented and first-generation ones, see college as unaffordable,” Dewayne Matthews, Lumina’s vice president of strategy and policy, said in an email. “The Tennessee proposal addresses that concern very powerfully.”

Matthews said he likes Haslam’s strategy of linking the free tuition plan to the state’s aggressive goals for increasing its number of college graduates.

David Baime, senior vice president for government relations and research for the American Association of Community Colleges, agreed with Matthews that the proposal sends a “loud and clear” message to lower-income students that college is for them.

“A lot of our students are so marginal when it comes to their ability to pay for college,” he said.

But Baime said policy makers must think carefully about the consequences before moving forward with two years of free tuition. He worried whether the tuition subsidies would be sustainable, because healthy budgets don’t last long.

Raising tuition once it has been eliminated is never easy, as California’s community colleges have learned. (Tuition was free at the state’s two-year colleges until 1984. And current tuition levels remain far below the national average, at $46 per credit.)

Matthews also said states must continue to serve more students. That takes funding.

“If states forgo tuition revenue, they will need to find that money elsewhere,” he said.

Legitimate Goals, and Worries

Tennessee has drawn the most attention for its community college tuition plan. Haslam, a Republican, has won fans by prodding colleges to do better, and then finding ways to fund those initiatives.

On Monday the governor proposed making the first two years of community and technical college free to all Tennessee high school graduates. He suggested funneling $300 million from the state’s lottery fund to create an endowment that would cover the cost of the tuition and fees.

The so-called Tennessee Promise would cost the state an estimated $34 million per year, according to a fact sheet the governor's office circulated. But Haslam said the proposed endowment should be able to handle that expense.

To be eligible students must enroll in community college the fall after their high school graduation. They must also take at least 12 credit hours per semester, maintain a 2.0 GPA and complete eight hours of community service per semester, according to the fact sheet.

The fund will be a "last-dollar scholarship," meaning it will cover only the fees left over after all other sources of aid have been applied. That includes federal funding, like Pell Grants.

The state expects 25,000 students to apply to the program. And the governor's office said it hopes to bring in at least 5,000 volunteer mentors to work with applicants.

"It is a promise that we have an ability to make," Haslam said of the plan, in a written statement. "Net cost to the state, zero. Net impact on our future, priceless."

A similar plan is moving forward in Mississippi, albeit more quietly. Two weeks ago a committee of the state’s Legislature passed a bill that would make tuition free at all 15 Mississippi community colleges for students who graduated from high school within 12 months of enrolling in college. An appropriations committee and the full Legislature have yet to consider the plan.

To qualify under the language in the proposed bill, students would also need to be first-time, full-time students. Once admitted students would need to maintain a 2.5 GPA while taking a minimum of 15 credit hours each semester to continue to have their tuition covered by the state.

Mississippi would only pick up the tuition costs after all other federal, state and institutional aid sources have been tapped. As a result, lawmakers estimated the annual cost to be less than $4.5 million per year for the 75,000-student system, reported The Sun Herald of Biloxi.

The impetus for the legislation is concern over the “cost of higher education,” according to the text of the bill, and the “growing financial burden of both out-of-pocket expenses and loans to be repaid, that are being placed on current and future students.”

Those concerns are legitimate, said Sara Goldrick-Rab, an associate professor of educational policy studies and sociology at the University of Wisconsin at Madison.

Many people mistakenly believe community college is affordable, said Goldrick-Rab, who studies community college access issues. It is not, she said, at least for low-income students, who face an average net price of more than $8,000 a year even after all grants are considered.

“Many students are quite reasonably worried about borrowing $16,000 to $24,000 for a two-year degree, which often takes three years to complete,” she said via email, adding that “it is increasingly hard for students to find flexible part-time employment that aligns with their school schedules.”

Yet while Goldrick-Rab said the free-tuition plans are welcome developments, some are better than others.

She is concerned about whether the plans would harm access to four-year institutions. That’s because academically prepared, low-income students experience a “smoother path” to a bachelor degree if they start at a four-year institution.

Goldrick-Rab also said the benefits of free tuition are reduced if policy makers set “unreasonable criteria” such as high G.P.A. or credit thresholds.

“I’d recommend a closer look to see if additional sources of funding, including federal work-study and benefits access programs, could be aligned to bring even more resources to the table,” she said.

It's in the Details

Oregon’s free tuition plan remains solidly in the conceptual phase. But as with the proposals in the two other states, momentum is building rapidly for the idea – thanks in part to all the attention President Obama and others have directed at community college students.

A committee of the state’s Senate on Tuesday voted for a bill that requires Oregon’s Higher Education Coordinating Committee to study the idea of free community college tuition for two years for the state’s high school graduates.

Lawmakers estimate a cost between $100 million and $200 million per year, reported The Oregonian, a Portland newspaper. Roughly 32,000 students earn high school diplomas in the state each year.

Gov. John Kitzhaber, a Democrat, supports the proposal. But he included several caveats during his testimony before the state Senate this week.

“I’d suggest it’s an excellent idea but not without its complexities or potential pitfalls,” Kitzhaber said, according to The Oregonian. He suggested adding G.P.A. requirements and other incentives.

Cox Brand is among many state officials who will study the proposal as it emerges. She likes the overall concept. “It’s a grand idea. We all want to have more affordable college, for everyone,” said Cox-Brand. “It’s the shiny, bright object.”

But she said plenty of challenges and tricky details will need to be resolved to make the plan work.

“What is it really going to look like?” she asked. “How much does it even cost? Is it sustainable?”


Read more: http://www.insidehighered.com/news/2014/02/06/reaction-three-states-proposals-tuition-free-community-college#ixzz2sYEFYXfF
Inside Higher Ed

Prepare partnerships now for next round of TAACCCT grants
By Matthew Dembicki, Community College Daily

​Expect to see some more tweaks in the coming application for the fourth and final round of a popular $2 billion federal job training grant program to help community colleges meet the needs of growing industries.

At the American Association of Community Colleges’ annual Workforce Development Institute (WDI) last week in St. Petersburg, Fla., U.S. Labor Department officials said the Trade Adjustment Assistance Community College and Career Training (TAACCCT) grant application due out this spring will include some changes to the previous year’s form, though they didn’t go into details.

However, department officials said community colleges thinking of applying for the grants — totaling $464 million for the upcoming round — should start putting their partnerships together now.

“Get your partnerships together, get organized,” said Eric Seleznow, acting assistant secretary of labor for employment and training.

Bringing together partners from the community, higher education, and business and industry takes time, he said. The department would rather see TAACCCT projects hit the ground running rather than having them gradually ramp up, holding off tapping their grants as they put pieces in place.

Don't get torpedoed

A session at WDI was devoted to TAACCCT, with officials from current grantee colleges and prospective ones discussing what has worked — and what hasn’t — in previous applications. Colleges in current TAACCCT projects emphasized strategic partnerships and the need to get organized before the applications come out.

Doing so allows participants to weed out potential problem partners. College officials noted TAACCCT applications that were nixed because one partner didn’t provide the required paperwork on time. In another instance, a partner pulled out at the last minute, which changed the proposal, other partners’ roles and the over budget of the project.

It takes 30 to 60 days to get the partnership process rolling, college officials said. It takes even longer to get signed commitments from prospective partners, who often agree to concepts but are sometimes hesitant when it comes to making a commitment.

It’s also a good idea to review previous winning TAACCCT applications. Several colleges participating in TAACCCT projects noted that including an outside project evaluator from the beginning was important. The grant application requires having an evaluation plan, and including an evaluator at the start of a project ensures the company is familiar with the project from the start, rather than having the evaluator play catch up when there is a problem.

A page from other grants

Aside from previous TAACCCT applications, officials said the application process for other federal grants may help craft a good proposal. The Investing in Manufacturing Communities Partnership (IMCP) is a new federal partnership that aims to accelerate the resurgence of manufacturing and create a competitive climate for communities to attract manufacturing jobs and investment. It’s website includes an “IMCP Playbook” to guide new grant applicants, particularly in helping communities position themselves to team with local businesses.

"It's a living document," said Tom Murray, a senior scientist at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, one of the partnering federal agencies on IMCP.

Source:  Community College Daily


Photo of the Day


​Above: Super Sunday Hall of Fame - Bill Dixon, Henderson Community College. Bill Dixon is a native of Henderson, Ky. Bill serves as the Director of Cultural Diversity at Henderson Community College (HCC), where he is also an alumnus. Bill also serves as the college's EEO officer. Bill is a 1968 graduate of Henderson (City) High School. In the fall of 1968, Bill attended the University of Kentucky, where he quickly learned he was facing academic and social challenges. Determined to complete college, he enrolled at HCC in the fall of 1969, transferred to Indiana State University/Evansville, where he received a BS degree in sociology and psychology. Bill's professional work experience has varied from professional sales representative to executive director of three different human service agencies. Bill feels his most important work is what he is doing now at HCC. This position allows him to give back to Henderson Community College, the students and community and create a greater awareness among the African American community about the importance of higher education and the quality/value of education at HCC. Bill is a member of Greater Norris Chapel Baptist Church, where he serves on the deacon board and the last three years as chairman. Bill is married to Fathey Dixon and they have four adult children.
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