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Getting paid for making good grades
In March 17 Issue
By John Thompson
Times Journal Reporter

The American dream consists of many things, and chief among them is a quality college education for most. Unfortunately, for many it remains just that, a dream. With rising college tuition along with the uncertainty in the job market, overcoming the obstacles has gotten tougher.

Luckily there are many programs out there to help young men and women take advantage of this American dream and the Kentucky Educational Excellence Scholarship (KEES) program is one of them.

In 1998, the General Assembly provided Kentucky high school students, home school students, and GED graduates a great opportunity to make their education pay with the KEES. Administered by the Kentucky Higher Education Assistance Authority (KHEAA), KEES is funded by Kentucky Lottery proceeds.

Students who try to get the most from high school by studying hard and making good grades (2.5 GPA or higher) can earn scholarships for college or technical school.

The more students accomplish in high school, the more they will earn toward college scholarships. Futhermore, students who complete college studies have a better opportunity to achieve their career goals and improve their standard of living. Home school and GED graduates may earn awards based on their ACT scores.

KEES is automatic. Your child gets paid for good grades in the form of money put away for tuition. "Any Kentucky student in public school or accredited private school, as soon as they start 9th grade we start paying for good grades, meaning a C+ or better," said Toni Wiley Southern Kentucky Outreach Counselor with KHEAA.

Wiley covers 13 counties in the southern part of Kentucky as a counselor, instructor, motivational speaker and staff trainer for KHEAA, and she finds talking about KEES is indeed a great motivational tool for students looking forward to college.

Before telling you more about KEES, you might be wondering just exactly who is KHEAA?

KHEAA is the state government agency created to improve access to college and technical schools by providing student financial aid and distributing information about college opportunities. Beginning as early at 6th grade KHEAA has developed a set of presentations to address specific grades and age groups.

Many of the presentations are aligned with the Kentucky Department of Education's Core Content for Assessment of Practical Living/Vocational studies. Their outreach counselors offer many services that include instruction, job fairs, financial education and professional development/staff training.

Sixth, seventh, and eighth grade is not too early to begin at least understanding the prerequisites of college, whether curriculum, attitude, responsibilities or work ethic. That is why KHEAA offers a workshop to encourage middle school students to study hard, get good grades, and set their sights on education after high school. They will teach your child the benefits of getting a higher education, what they can do to prepare for their futures, and how to earn scholarship funds to help pay for college or technical school.

By the time your child reaches the level of high school freshman or sophomore it's time they learn how college works. Through college planning materials and services participants learn the benefits of getting a higher education and are introduced to state and federal financial aid programs and terms, vital in these tough economic times.

When your child reaches the level of Junior or Senior it is time they begin planning their college experience. KHEAA, through their teaching workshops teach these students such important lessons such as: Monetary and social benefits of higher education, the importance of good grades, tests, dual credit and advanced placement, choosing the right school, picking a major, adjusting to college life, financial aid resources, just to name a few of the subjects.

KHEAA offers many more services, more than could be listed here. But every student and parent who's interested will be able to soon visit the College Info Road Show; a mobile classroom designed to provide a brief overview of student financial aid programs and services. The large, brightly marked van will soon be making an appearance in Russell County. More details will be provided when a date is confirmed.

More about KEES

One of the biggest difficulties facing potential and current college students has to do with finances; whether how to finance college or how to not be seduced into accepting credit cards and then using them as if they had cash in hand. KHEAA offers many tips on how to use credit cards wisely, and they also offer extensive knowledge on student aid programs: Pell Grants, Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grants, Perkins Loan, Stafford Loan, PLUS Loan. But they also have a program that pays your child for excellence.

The Kentucky Educational Excellence Scholarship will set aside an amount of money every year, depending on your grade. If your child has a 2.5 GPA? $125.00. And if they have a 4.0? $500.00 for the year, or a possible $2,000 to begin their college career and every year toward their four year degree.

There is also ample opportunity to earn more money just doing the things that have to be done to attend college in the first place, with again a higher monetary benefit depending on performance. A bonus of as little as $36 can be earned for a 15 on the ACT or a 710 on the SAT to $500 for an ACT of 28 or higher or an SAT of 1240 or higher. "I'd say the average $1,200 to $1,800 by the time they graduate," said Wiley when asked, "but still, if they go to school four years, it's almost $8,000. And that's for pretty much any school, college, in Kentucky."

We know and understand the plight of the underprivileged here in Russell County. Students who are eligible for free or reduced-price lunches during any year of high school can earn KEES supplemental awards by making qualifying scores on Advanced Placement (AP) or International Baccalaureate (IB) exams.

And when you combine the two; you bonus money with your GPA awards, that means your child may earn up to $2,500 for each year of college. Not an insignificant amount these days. And there is nothing to apply for, and nothing you have to do, except know that the money is there for your child, and maybe offer this knowledge as an inducement to your child to do their best to excel.

Much more can be learned, both about the KEES program as well as the KHEAA program. You are encouraged to go to and review their materials and visit with your child's high school counselor. You can also talk with Toni Wiley at 1-800-928-8926 ext. 67283 or email her at Your child may never know what opportunities exist for him or her if you do not make the effort to let them know.

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