BCC trustees review Kansas Promise Act

·3 min read

Jun. 10—Barton Community College is set to participate in the Kansas Promise Scholarship program but there are issues that must be resolved first, Barton President Dr. Carl Heilman told the Board of Trustees at the June study session on Tuesday.

It goes into effect July 1, 2021. "And what's not clear are the final development of the applications, or the criteria of the methods of payment, certification, etc.," Heilman said. "We have a great deal yet to identify and recognize before we even get this thing going."

Without those clarifications of "possible entanglements," he said, "I would be hard-pressed to recommend the program."

Vice President of Administration Mark Dean further explained some of the problems, one being that the Kansas Board of Regents (KBOR) has until March of 2022 to adopt rules and regulations.

"It still could be a fantastic program," Dean concluded, but he said it must be structured correctly.

The Kansas Promise Scholarship Fund was approved by the Legislature and $10 million across the state is available and has already been appropriated for FY 22 and FY 23. It is a last-dollar scholarship, which means it will kick in after all other federal aid and any outside scholarships are applied. It pays for tuition, fees, books and supplies for up to an associate degree.

It's open to most Kansans where the family household income is under $100,000 a year for a family of two or $150,000 for a family of three (add $4,800 for each additional family member). Middle-income students will benefit the most from this program, according to information shared at the board meeting. Low-income students will likely qualify for full Pell grants that will disqualify them from this scholarship.

Eligible institutions include all Kansas community colleges and technical colleges, as well as any Kansas independent college that has two-year programs in designated fields of study, although the scholarship amount is capped at the average of the public institution price.

Eligible areas of study include two-year associate degree programs or CTE (career and technical education) certificate or stand-alone programs in various career fields.

These include:

—Advanced Manufacturing and Building Trades

—Early Childhood Education and Development

—Mental and Physical Health Care

—Information Technology and Security

Each postsecondary institution may designate one additional "promise-eligible" program that corresponds to a high wage, high demand or critical need occupation. Barton has requested approval of its Natural Gas Transmission and Distribution Technician program along with programs in the career fields listed above.

The program is not without strings, as Heilman and Dean noted. Students who accept Kansas Promise Scholarship funds have to complete the federal financial aid application and the Kansas Promise Scholarship application and then maintain satisfactory academic progress to stay in the program. They also must enter into an agreement to live and work in Kansas for two years after they complete their degree or certification. That can be delayed if they pursue a bachelor's degree. Those who fail to meet the requirement must pay back the scholarship and accrued interest at approximately a 5.3% rate.

Some of the unanswered questions are who will bear the burden of tracking compliance data and collecting funds that must be repaid? What will be the criteria for methods of payment or for appeals?

Barton's Board of Trustees President Mike Johnson said the program looks good but agreed there are details to hammer out.

"There doesn't appear to be a lot of gray area when you read the legislation," Johnson said of the program. "But according to KBOR, there is a lot of gray area."

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