Everyone deserves the opportunity to seek higher education. Currently, anyone with a felony conviction – whether they are incarcerated or have served their sentence – is banned from utilizing Kentucky Educational Excellence Scholarship (KEES) money. 

Ending this prohibition will open doors for thousands of Kentuckians. Education leads to meaningful employment, self-worth, and will allow formerly incarcerated people to fully reintegrate into their communities, support our economy, and provide for their families.

What is KEES?

KEES is a scholarship available to Kentucky high school students, home school students, and GED graduates. KEES is funded by proceeds from the Kentucky Lottery and administered by the Kentucky Higher Education Assistance Authority. Scholarships are awarded to people who have earned a GPA of 2.5 or higher; score reasonably well on standardized tests; are within 5 years of graduation from high school. People can apply to use funds for apprenticeships and qualified workforce training.

Why end the prohibition?

This prohibition affects hundreds of thousands of Kentuckians and is holding our commonwealth back. Excluding people with felony convictions makes it harder for them to gain employment, fully invest in their communities, and become productive members of our economy.

Thousands of Kentuckians are shut out of education:

  • 300,000 Kentuckians have a felony conviction
  • 40,000 Kentuckians are currently incarcerated, including 1,839 under the age of 25, due to a felony conviction
  • 20,000 Kentuckians are currently on probation or parole due to a felony conviction

Racial and gender disparities:

Women and Kentuckians of color, especially Black Kentuckians, are disproportionately affected by this prohibition because it exacerbates existing inequities.

  • 8% of Kentucky’s population is Black, yet 22% of those incarcerated are Black
  • Women’s incarceration continues to rise. This prohibition is compounding with other factors (i.e. childcare) and making it harder for women to seek education.

This legislation passed the House in 2021 and 2022, going further than similar legislation in years past.


2023 General Assembly