Blake Scroggins isn’t your typical college sophomore. Sometimes his day begins at 3 a.m. with the early shift in the manager-training program at McDonalds.
As the day progresses, he’s in class at the University of Pikeville, a full-time student pursuing a bachelor’s degree in business. Working long hours to put himself through school, Scroggins even gave up his position on the university’s bowling team to carve out more time in his busy schedule.
Scroggins is all for the legislation to bring the University of Pikeville into the state system and has high praise for those working on his behalf.
“It would decrease the price of tuition and increase the number of students who could attend college,” said Scroggins. “The University of Pikeville is close to home, which allows me to keep my job and go to school at the same time.”
“I grew up in Floyd County,” said Scroggins. “Greg Stumbo has done a lot for Floyd County and Eastern Kentucky in general. This is a great idea and I appreciate what Speaker Stumbo and Representative Leslie Combs are doing. They didn’t have to do this but they took on the challenge for the students and the community.”
On Tuesday, House Speaker Stumbo and Rep. Leslie Combs filed HB 260, legislation that would bring the University of Pikeville into the state’s postsecondary system and make college more accessible and affordable. If the measure passes, UPIKE would become Kentucky’s seventh regional four-year university with a primary service area that covers a 12-county region, including Pike, Leslie, Magoffin, Letcher, Harlan, Perry, Bell, Martin, Johnson, Floyd, Breathitt and Knott counties. According to the bill, the multi-county coal severance revenue derived from participating counties would drop the University’s tuition from $17,050 to about $7,000, bringing it in line with other regional institutions.
“This idea has come together quickly, but the more it’s discussed, the more it just makes sense,” Combs said. “For about $12 million in multi-county, coal-severance dollars, we can have a long-established, well-respected institution in the mountains that has an osteopathic school training tomorrow’s doctors. It’s our best shot to raising the college-attainment rate in our region, which is almost half of the state’s average.”
Noting the University’s record enrollment, the potential for growth and the success of the Kentucky College of Osteopathic Medicine, Stumbo, whose Floyd County district adjoins Pike, said in his nearly 30 years in the General Assembly he hadn’t seen a better deal for the state.
“For this relatively small investment, we get more than $170 million worth of facilities and a school that would do more than anything else to give our children the education they deserve here at home,” said Stumbo. “Some say this would be the biggest boost to our region since the Mountain Parkway, but I think it has the potential to be even bigger.”
The legislation calls for the University to collaborate with middle and high schools to educate students and parents on the importance of a college degree, what it takes to be successful in college and convey the message that college is affordable. It also directs the University to work with high schools and students to improve college readiness.
“The goal of this legislation is to help students obtain a high quality, affordable baccalaureate degree without having to leave this region,” said University of Pikeville President Paul Patton. “The bachelor degree attainment rate for the rest of the state is 20.7 percent higher than the attainment rate for the proposed 12-county service district. We will be charged with bringing the bachelor degree attainment rate up to the state average. No other state-supported university will have such a mandate,” Patton said.
Gov. Steve Beshear recently announced a study of the advisability and feasibility of adding the University of Pikeville to the state university system. The state conducted similar reviews before expanding the university system to include the University of Louisville in 1970. The study is expected to take six to eight weeks.
“The more people study this, the more obvious it becomes that UPIKE can meet so many of our needs in the mountains and do it affordably,” Stumbo said. “My hope is that we can pass this quickly so the school is part of the system by this fall.”