Some not happy with scholarship program

Several county and college officials are calling the new coal-tax funded scholarship program “biased" and "discriminatory."

Governor Steve Beshear recently approved the more than four million dollar scholarship program which will help students in nine counties earn their bachelors degree.

The new scholarship program, funded by coal severance tax dollars, is designed to help students achieve a higher level of education at a lower price.

“What this basically does is equates UPIKE’s tuition pretty close to the state tuition at a state university,” UPIKE President Paul Patton said.

Critics say the program comes at a cost since it only provides scholarships in 9 out of the 25 coal-producing counties.

“We should have never been left out and when I talked to Mr. Patton he promised me that we wouldn't be left out,” Perry County Judge Executive Denny Ray Noble said.

County officials aren't the only ones upset.

Some officials at the University of the Cumberlands say the scholarship program is simply "unfair" and that students here should have an equal advantage in advancing their education.

Cumberlands President Jim Taylor says counties like Whitley and Knox were intentionally discriminated against for personal and political reasons.

“I want him not to discriminate against any student in a coal producing county or their families, I want it to be fair, equitable, above board,” Dr. Taylor said.

Taylor believes the scholarship program is just a back door way to pump money into the University of Pikeville.

“It’s like cotton candy, what he has up there, it’s very pretty but you bite into it and there’s nothing to it except for one thing and that is that Paul Patton's institution profits. It’s wrong, it’s just wrong,” Dr. Taylor said.

Taylor has even created his own scholarship proposal including all students in Kentucky's coal counties.

Governor Beshear emphasizes that this is a pilot program which will be evaluated after two years.

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