Life in Transition

Navigating Personal Finances During Life Transitions

Kentucky: Where Education Pays–Part I

If you drive down I-71 from Ohio down to Kentucky, you see a sign announcing your arrival to the bluegrass state, with the phrase “Where education pays” on the right hand corner.   Based on my own experience, there is some validity to that statement, if you plan ahead.   Not only was I able to get my tuition paid for, I was also able to  cover all my living expenses with scholarships.

KEES Scholarship

One of the major ways Kentuckians finance their education is through the Kentucky Educational Excellence Scholarship (KEES). To sum it up, it’s free money for good grades if you attend a  community college or four- year university in Kentucky.  Each year of high school you accumulate scholarship money based on your GPA, if it is at least a 2.5 (back when I was in high school, you began accumulating money with a 2.0 GPA, looks like they raised their standards during the recession).  Here is the GPA chart posted on the KEES website:

GPA Award Amount
2.50 $125
2.60 $150
2.70 $175
2.75 $187
2.80 $200
2.90 $225
3.00 $250
3.10 $275
3.20 $300
3.25 $312
3.30 $325
3.40 $350
3.50 $375
3.60 $400
3.70 $425
3.75 $437
3.80 $450
3.90 $475
4.00 $500

So, hypothetically, let’s say a student has a 3.00 GPA  his freshman year, a 3.75 his sophomore year, a 3.30 his junior year, and a 4.00 his senior year.  So, adding up the money he accumulates each year  he will receive a  $1512 KEES Scholarship each year of college for up to four years.   On top of that, students can receive an ACT bonus (those who take the SAT will get their scores converted to an ACT score) based on their score.  Here is the chart for the ACT bonus:

ACT Score Bonus Amount
15 $36
16 $71
17 $107
18 $143
19 $179
20 $214
21 $250
22 $286
23 $321
24 $357
25 $393
26 $428
27 $464
28+ $500

Let’s say the same hypothetical student got a 26 on his ACT.  He would receive a $428 bonus, which brings his annual total to  $1940.  So if he went to a  four-year university,  he would receive  a total of $7760 from the state of Kentucky without having to fill out a scholarship application.  I realized that  compared to how much the tuition bill is,  $7760 over four years seems like just a drop in the bucket.  But when you think about how much you can save on interest if you take out a  loan, or how many, hours you have to work at a minimum wage job to save up that amount a money,  $7760  is a nice sum of money.  I used an online loan calculator with the following parameters: Interest Rate: 6.8% Loan Fees: 1.0% Loan Term: 10 years Total Years in College: 4 years The total interest paid would be over $3000, which can be better spent elsewhere.    If you worked a part time minimum-wage job (which is $7.25 in Kentucky during college , you would have to work 1070 hours to make $7760 if you don’t take taxes into account.  Based on these calculations, I think it is important for high school students to keep their grades up; grades are worth money. I received the maximum KEES reward of $2500 a year during undergrad.  My high school didn’t have a plus/minus system for grades, which made it easier for me to get a 4.0 each year.  Also, for most of my high school classes, all I had to do was turn in my homework assignments on time, pay attention and take good notes in class, and  participate in class discussions to get A’s.  To me, I was getting free money for being a responsible student.

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4 thoughts on “Kentucky: Where Education Pays–Part I

  1. Wow! I had no idea that you could earn scholarship money from good grades in high school. That’s such a great idea! I bet states with really large populations would find that unsustainable, but for the smaller states, that’s a cool incentive for students.

    Did you have to go to an in-state college to get the money paid out?

    • Yes you have to go to an in-state school to get the money paid out. The only exception is if no schools in Kentucky offers the major you desire (for example, marine biology). In that case, for certain majors, there are a list of schools that would the state would payout the KEES money.

      I’ve always heard the Kentucky is rank towards the bottom when it comes to the portion of popultion with bachelor’s degrees, so I think they started this program to change that. Also, they want to keep the best students from leaving the state.

  2. Very interesting program. In my home state (Maine) the valedictorian and salutatorian get a full-ride to University of Maine. I didn’t have any interest in attending at the time, but I think it’s great that Kentucky is offering scholarship (and incentive to do well in school) to everyone in the state, not just the top 2 (which is extremely difficult and highly competitive at big high schools)

    • At first I didn’t have any interest attending an in-state school, but balked at the idea until the last minute. I’m really glad I made the decision to stay in state.

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