Short Title

Students’ Perspectives on a Gap-Funded Program


In 2010, McCracken County, Kentucky implemented the Community Scholarship Program (CSP) to provide graduates of high schools in the county an opportunity to receive a tuition-free community college education. Quantitative data was collected throughout the various stages of student progress through the program. As the first cohort of CSP students approached graduation from West Kentucky Community and Technical College (WKCTC) in Spring 2016, we initiated a qualitative study. We interviewed 19 of the 88 continuously enrolled students from the first CSP cohort in a series of three focus groups in February and March of 2016. Those group interviews focused on addressing the impact of CSP, from a student perspective, on enrollment, persistence, and completion of a credential at WKCTC. Key issues that emerged include the importance students place on (a) having every high school senior complete the FAFSA® and a WKCTC first-semester schedule; (b) building relationships with college personnel, especially success coaches, who provide both academic and personal advice and encouragement; (c) providing a clearer explanation of what a gap-funded scholarship program covers; and (d) restructuring the program to cover more college-going expenses. This paper presents several implications for practice.