Proprietary schools and college students stress importance of expanded financial aid in bill awaiting passage by Kentucky lawmakers

A bill awaiting passage in the final days of the 2022 legislative session would expand access to student financial aid to help Kentuckians achieve their post-secondary goals. The Bottom Line sat down with a leader at one of Kentucky’s proprietary schools and a first generation college student who agree the legislation will be a huge benefit to Kentucky.

Adam Hinton is the Director at Kentucky Welding Institute as well as the Vice President at Hinton Mills, an operation of four retail farm supply locations and feed mills based out of Flemingsburg, Kentucky.

Kentucky Welding Institute is a proprietary school with multiple certification courses helping students from across the country get their start with a successful career.

Part of Senate Bill 163, sponsored by Sen. Brandon Storm, allows Kentucky Educational Excellence Scholarship (KEES) awardees to use their awards at proprietary schools provided that the program falls within one of Kentucky’s top-five high-demand workforce sectors (Advanced Manufacturing, Business/IT, Construction, Healthcare, and Transportation).

Currently, Kentucky students cannot use the financial aid funds they have earned at these proprietary schools.

Hinton told The Bottom Line that in the last seven years, students of the Kentucky Welding Institute have missed out on more than $140,000 worth of KEES funds they have earned because of this issue.

“This bill would help us break down that barrier and allow, with certain safeguards in place, proprietary schools to be able to accept KEES money and allow those students to have the choices that they need,” Hinton said.

Watch the full conversation with Hinton here:

Another provision of Senate Bill 163 would remove the statutory ban on individuals with felony records from receiving and utilizing KEES awards and removes broad restrictions on currently-incarcerated Kentuckians with non-violent felonies from accessing state financial aid programs.

Alexandrea Shouse is a first-generation college student who is set to graduate with honors in May and then head to Eastern Kentucky University. She is very involved on campus and leading several initiatives.

But life didn’t always look this way for Alexandrea. She is in recovery and has lost several family members to that battle with substance use disorder. Her personal struggle started around the age of 12 and it landed her behind bars.

After paying her debt to society, Alexandrea was in recovery but her life felt stagnant as her record continued to stand in the way of her creating a better life. Until she found out she could enroll in school at Bluegrass Career and Technical College (BCTC). That’s when things really started to turn around for her.

Education was a door Alexandrea, like many others, felt was closed to her. That’s why bills like Senate Bill 163 are so important to letting people know they do have options and they can pursue the next step toward a better future, she told The Bottom Line.

“Having that security of ‘yes, I have this [KEES] money set back that I earned’ is reassurance that an individual is going to be able to move forward and go to school,” Shouse said.

Watch the full conversation with Alexandrea in the video below:

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Jacqueline Pitts
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