By Breck Norment

Eastern students currently receiving a KEES scholarship may need to look for alternative ways to pay for their education due to possible reductions in the program.Gov. Steve Beshear’s proposed budget cuts have asked for a reduction in state funds for the Kentucky Educational Excellence Scholarship (KEES), said Shelley Park, Eastern’s director of student financial assistance, scholarship and veteran affairs.

A cut in the KEES scholarship would affect Eastern students who attended a Kentucky high school because many rely on it to pay for their college.

“Naturally we would hate to see a cut,” Park said.

Beshear said he had very little choice but to cut funding because the state faces a $580 million shortfall in the next fiscal year, State Rep. Harry Moberly told the Lexington Herald-Leader.

Moberly is the chairman of the House budget committee and a senior administrator at Eastern.

Moberly also said he hoped lawmakers could get at least half of the proposed 12 percent cut from a cigarette tax increase and some other revenue measures he said he couldn’t discuss yet.

The proposed budget would cut almost $13.1 million of KEES money the first year and more than $1 million the second year, sources told the Herald-Leader.

By the year 2010, that would reduce the scholarship’s current level by 15.8 percent, sources told the Herald-Leader.

Receiving a reduction in this scholarship would have a huge impact on Eastern students, Park said.

In the 2007-2008 year, nearly $7 million was dispersed to about 5,100 students at Eastern, Park said.

Officials from Kentucky Higher Education Assistance Authority (KHEAA) administer the KEES, but they don’t know how many students could be affected by the cut or to what degree, Park said.

Many Eastern students said KEES money plays a big role in their education.

“It’s a huge deal,” said Britney Gray, a 20-year-old Child and Family Studies major from Whitesville, Ky.

Gray said that KEES money is the only help she gets.

She also said that it helps with paying for things like the cost of books, although it still doesn’t cover all she needs.

If KEES money is reduced, she guessed she would have to get a second job or take out a loan.

Others said KEES made paying for school a lot easier. “It’s a big chunk and it helps,” said Sarah Heaton, a 22-year-old communications major from Louisville, Ky.

Heaton said her sister goes to an expensive private school and, if the money is cut, she doesn’t know what she’s going to do.

Heaton was also concerned for people who have accumulated that money for four years in high school.

The proposed budget still has to go through the House and the Senate, Park said.

Students could contact the legislatures if they want to voice their opinions, Park said.

“It could be a while” before the budget is finally approved, Park added.

When the law was developed, the state lottery revenue was to provide money for the scholarships, Park said.

According to The Lexington Herald-Leader, the amount of KEES money awarded exceeded the amount generated by the lottery and the state had to add general fund dollars to compensate.

The General Assembly has spent more money than the state could pay, State Sen. Tim Shaughnessy told the Herald-Leader.

KEES is a merit-based program, Park said. The other programs that come out of the lottery are need-based college access program grants like the College Access Program (CAP) and the Kentucky Tuition Grant (KTG), Park said.

In his budget address, Beshear said he was against cuts in need-based aid.

To qualify for KEES money, a student must attend a certified high school and receive a grade-point average of at least a 2.5 out of 4.0 and the student must score at least a 15 on the ACT, Park said.

They earn a KEES grant for each year of high school from which they meet the minimum standards. Scholarships range from $125 per year for a 2.5 GPA to $500 per year for a 4.0 GPA, Park said.

They range from $36 for a 15 out of 36 on the ACT to $500 for a 28 or above, Park said.

In order to keep their scholarships, students must keep a 2.5 GPA in their first year of college, Park said.

Then, they must keep a 3.0 GPA in their second, third and fourth years, Park said.