By Jerome Soldo
“The University of Kentucky can’t afford to continue giving scholarships to our state’s best students,” I tweeted in response to the University of Kentucky’s recent announcement of bumping ACT score requirements from 28 to 31 for graduates of the Governor’s Scholars Program hoping to receive scholarship assistance. In the past, a score of 28 guaranteed program alumni a full-tuition scholarship, which amounts to roughly $40,000 over four years.
Now, UK demands an ACT score of 31 for its full-tuition grantees. In other words, the administration has deemed that a student must rank in the nation’s 97th percentile to deserve funding. What about the student with a 28? UK awards a modest $1,500 a year: embarrassingly insignificant for a school where the estimated annual cost of attendance is now $26,700. I’ll disclose the second half of my tweet later, but for now, 145 retweets and 194 favorites seem symbolic of our community’s outrage.
Let me explain my experience. I became a Governor’s Scholar in 2011 and returned to the program as a resident advisor in 2015. This time around, I supervised 22 boys on my hall from all corners of the state and led a co-ed group of 18 in a discussion-based seminar.
There is no way to explain the magic that takes place at GSP, but suffice it to say that these are inspired minds: musicians, athletes, writers and, more importantly, volunteers. I am as invested in their individual accomplishments as I am to the future success of the GSP. Thus, I was crushed by UK’s scholarship modification, for it meant that my scholars, eager to attend UK after achieving remarkable scores of 28, 29 or 30, would have to reconsider. This is an attack on the kids I work with and myself.
You don’t have to be a Governor’s Scholar to care about this issue, as it’s emblematic of changes for all of Kentucky’s students who hope to attend our flagship. UK’s mission statement includes a commitment to promoting “diversity, inclusion, economic development and human well-being.” This remains confusing when taking into consideration the increasing tuition and slashing of scholarships.
As college students, we are aware of the horrors that entail raising a composite score. To achieve a score of 31, one must first be granted an excellent high school education and have access to additional resources like test preparation materials and tutors. The problem is, UK is effectively filtering the students who can’t afford such opportunities.
Unlike GSP, this model eliminates students from certain geographic and financial backgrounds. I am ashamed of this institution that so flagrantly denies our state’s best interests. This might be UK, but it is not Kentucky.
My prediction is that this change will result in more GSP alumni looking to become Cardinals instead of Wildcats, which I sincerely hope that they do. Governor’s Scholars are more than an ACT score. They’re campus leaders, community builders and people who make change feasible. UK should repeal this initiative, but unfortunately I doubt they will.
U of L simply cannot mirror these policy changes; we must continue to be proud of our diversity and do whatever it takes to uphold it. We must remain committed to providing affordable education for our state’s students above all else, especially now as UK’s financial priorities evolve. The rest of my tweet: “Whew, at least Coach Cal still makes $7 million a year.”