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A decade ago, when Governor Paul Patton was president of Pikeville College, he instituted a scholarship for students from Eastern Kentucky called the Pikeville Promise. For students who were eligible to receive the maximum Pell, CAP, and KTG, who file the FAFSA each year, and who complete a minimum of 24 credit hours each year, UPIKE would waive all remaining tuition. Said another way, we accepted the financial aid offered by existing federal and state programs as payment in full for tuition.

With all of the buzz about colleges jumping on the bandwagon of no tuition lately, we thought it might be a good time to update the community on what Pikeville Promise has been able to accomplish in the last ten years. In that first year (2009), only three students applied, but in subsequent years, it has taken off nicely. Each year between 300 - 400 students apply for and receive the aid Pikeville Promise offers.

Governor Patton believed, as do I, that many bright students from Eastern Kentucky face economic difficulties unique to this part of the country. In the last decade, our economic drivers have been hit hard and it is difficult for parents to find work. We believe that many of these students are bright and want to attend college. We believe that attending college close to home, in an environment that is supportive, challenging and focused on student success is the best choice for many. Given the federal and state aid that is available, we believe no student should be prevented from completing the undergraduate degree of their choice. Students can choose to live on campus, or at home under Pikeville Promise, thereby reducing the out-of-pocket costs even more.

In the last ten years, Pikeville Promise has been awarded to 1,958 students. Together, they have received $9,173,297 in aid from the university. Hundreds of these students have graduated, and hundreds more will in the next few years. We are proud of each of these students. Many have chosen to stay in the area and are contributing to the local economy as nurses, teachers and business leaders. Some have chosen, or been forced, to leave in order to find work. We pray for safety and prosperity while they are away, but hope they will come back.

Mixed into the 1,958 are 17 students I would like to draw your attention to for just a few more seconds. These students, have risen from economic hardship, through their own intellect and hard work, and have been accepted to either our medical school, the Kentucky College of Osteopathic Medicine, or our new optometry school, the Kentucky College of Optometry.

Since those early days, the program has continued to evolve. The Pikeville Promise scholarship is now available to all qualified residents of the Commonwealth of Kentucky. Fill out the FAFSA, see if you (or your young adult) qualifies for the maximum Pell grant, CAP and KTG. If they do, UPIKE is a tuition-free option for your college education. This year, we are seeking a few exceptional students who are interested in becoming leaders on our campus. The new Presidential Fellow scholarship covers the full cost of tuition, room and board. This scholarship will be awarded to two outstanding students, preferably from the Commonwealth of Kentucky, who have demonstrated leadership through service to their communities and who have outstanding academic ability.

Some of us in higher education believe that being economically challenged should not prevent bright students from pursuing their dreams. Some of us believe that with the help that already exists in the public sector, we can provide a high-quality education to any undergraduate student who qualifies. The University of Pikeville is just one of those places, and we have been at this work for 130 years.

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