Hundreds of eastern Kentuckians who left college just short of earning an associate degree will have the chance to complete their educations at no cost with the help of "Finish Up For Free," an initiative of the Eastern Kentucky Concentrated Employment Program, Inc. (EKCEP).
"What we’re offering with Finish Up For Free is an opportunity," said EKCEP Executive Director Jeff Whitehead. "Those who are within 18 credit hours of finishing their degree can get financial assistance from Finish Up For Free to pay for tuition, books and fees. It can also provide assistance with other needs such as childcare and transportation."
Working in partnership with the Kentucky Community and Technical College System (KCTCS), Finish Up for Free expects to help up to 750 people who need 18 credit hours or less to finish an associate degree. EKCEP’s Finish Up For Free is funded by American Recovery and Reinvestment Act funds.
"Eastern Kentucky CEP has been helping people finish school, train for careers, and find jobs for more than 40 years," Whitehead said. "We understand as well as anyone that ‘life happens,’ and sometimes people find themselves unable to complete an associate degree for reasons beyond their control, such as family, financial or personal issues."
"This is their opportunity to go back and finish up," he said.
The deadline to enroll in Finish Up For Free is July 31 and spaces are limited. Classes at the KCTCS schools will begin August 17. However, Finish Up For Free is not strictly limited to KCTCS schools. Students who were pursuing associate degrees at other institutions may also apply.
To get more information, call toll-free 1-877-512-9675 or go to www.finishup.org.
Applicants will work with Finish Up For Free advisors to determine whether they are eligible. Applicants must be able to complete a written plan showing they can finish their degree by June 30, 2010, have not been enrolled in school since January 1, 2009, and left school with a cumulative grade point average of 2.0 or better on a 4.0 scale.
KCTCS officials say they are happy to work with EKCEP to help former students return to school.
"We’re very much in support of it. We’re most pleased for those students who are going to benefit from this program in terms of getting back into school and getting their degree," said William Duke, coordinator of special projects for Big Sandy Community and Technical College (BSCTC).
In addition to BSCTC, EKCEP is also partnering with Hazard Community and Technical College (HCTC) and Southeast Community and Technical College (SKCTC) in the Finish Up For Free effort.
Potential applicants should act quickly, according to Crawford Blakeman, EKCEP Business Services Director.
"This is an opportunity too good to pass up," Blakeman said. "Estimates are that more than two thirds of jobs in the near future will require some type of post-secondary education, and eastern Kentucky still lags behind the rest of the country and rest of the state in people who have those degrees."
"If you’re close enough to completing your degree to qualify for our program, consider this your chance to prepare yourself for the changing economy. We’re making it easy for you. Why not finish up and make a better life for yourself?" Blakeman said.
For over forty years, EKCEP has served 23 Eastern Kentucky counties with workforce development, training, and employment initiatives. EKCEP also administers the JobSight Network (online at
www.jobsight.org) of workforce centers, which provide access to services for both job seekers and businesses.
The 23 counties served by EKCEP whose residents are eligible for Finish Up For Free are: Bell; Breathitt; Carter; Clay; Elliot; Floyd; Harlan; Jackson; Johnson; Knott; Knox; Lawrence; Lee; Leslie; Letcher; Magoffin; Martin; Menifee; Morgan; Owsley; Perry; Pike; and Wolfe counties.
To make an appointment to meet with a Finish Up For Free career advisor or to get more information, call toll-free 1-877-512-9675 or go to www.finishup.org.