Scholarship History


NOTE: Content from the 60th anniversary program

Initial Years at the University of Kentucky 

How It All Started

The Kentucky Transportation Cabinet Scholarship Program was established in 1948 at the University of Kentucky (UK) as the Highway Scholarship Program.  Prior to 1948, officials of the Kentucky Department of Highways visited the College of Engineering at the University of Kentucky to recruit civil engineers but met with limited success.  At that time the need for engineers was rapidly increasing, but few graduates were joining the Department.  D. V. Terrell, Dean of the College of Engineering, proposed a scholarship plan to promote engineering and provide trained personnel to work for the Department. 

In June 1948, State Highway Engineer Dwight H. Bray called a meeting in his office to discuss the idea.  Attending the meeting were:  Highway Commissioner Garrett L. Withers; Dean Terrell; W.O. Snyder, Secretary of the Highway Contractor's Association; Robert E. Shaver, Assistant Dean and head of the Civil Engineering Department at UK; and various officials of the Highway Department.  The scholarship idea received a favorable reception from those at the meeting.  At the session it was proposed to set up two scholarships from each of the then nine highway districts. The department would sponsor the eighteen with a request for aid from individual contractors or the contractor's organizations.  Within a week, Mr. Withers had obtained the support of Governor Earl C. Clements and a favorable opinion from the Attorney General Carl D. Perkins as to the legality of highway department scholarships. 

On August 22, 1948, the Division of Public Information made the following press release:

Eighteen scholarships will be offered to selected first-year engineers at the University of Kentucky by the Kentucky department of Highways, commissioner Garrett L. Withers announced today. The scholarships, valued at $500 each, will be supplemented by summer employment within the department for the entire period of the student's education.

"The plan is being advanced for the purpose of encouraging young engineers to become interested in the Department," Commissioner Withers said.

In the past we have been unable to attract enough graduates to enter our field of engineering. The department's engineering problems are increasing every day, and we are rapidly approaching the time when additional engineers will be a necessity.

The scholarship committee of the University will be asked to select two students each from the nine highway districts. The selections will be made on a competitive basis, and students will be classed as employees of the department. The program had been declared consistent with the laws of the state of Attorney general Carl d. Perkins.

Dean D.V. Terrell of the College of Engineering at the University and State Highway Engineer Dwight H. Bray have been principals in working out the details of the scholarships.


The selection of scholarship recipients was to be made by the University of Kentucky Scholarship Committee, with merit being the sole determining factor for selection. Eighteen recipients were selected for the 1948 freshmen scholarship group.

Beginning in 1949, various highway industry groups sponsored additional highway scholarships.  These organizations included: the Kentucky Highway contractor's Association, the Plantmix Asphalt Industry of Kentucky, Harry O. wise, and J. Stanley Dawson. The industry scholarships were funded solely by the individual organization but while in school the recipients were treated as department scholarship recipients in all other regards. Industry scholarships were associated with department scholarships through 1957. 

1950 CE Students at UK.jpg

First Scholarship Class - Fall 1948

FIRST ROW Dean Daniel V. Terrell; Edward B. Simmons, La Center; J. C. Van Meter, Bee Spring; Harold Watts, Hindman; Garrett L. Withers, Commissioner of Highways, T. C Jackson, Mt. Sterling; Dwight, H. Bray, State Highway Engineer. 
SECOND ROW· P. A. Yelton, Burlington; J. E. Humphrey, Lexington; P. L. Prather, Somerset, Freeland Harris, 
Madisonville, Carroll Florence, Louisville; R B. Morrison, Lexington, W S Arnold, Cynthiana; C. S Layson, Harlan; J. D. Conyer, Paducah, 
THIRD ROW: W. R. Browne, Louisville; H. L. Wolson, Mt Sterling, Billy Mullins, Climax; Gerald G. Caldwell, Williamstown; W. T. Bennett, Sacremento. 

From fall 1954 to spring 1956, master's degree scholarships were offered to Highway Department employees, seven individuals participated, and attended UK full time with full salary.

The undergraduate scholarship program remained basically unchanged until 1958 when, at the suggestion of State Highway Engineer Dwight Bray, a sophomore scholarship program was initiated.  Those recipients successfully completing their freshman year with a grade point average of 2.5 or better were eligible to apply. The department set a limit of twelve. In 1959 the qualifications were revised to require a 2.0 average, no failures or withdrawals, and completion of all work assigned. Sophomore scholarship recipients were required to serve the department for two years after graduation.

In 1962, the sophomore program was modified to allow anyone who finished all work in the first two semesters of civil engineering at UK to apply if they met the qualifications. Preference was given to freshmen recipients and the number of sophomore scholarships was increased to fifteen. Ten from the freshmen group and five new recipients were selected for sophomore scholarships in 1962.

The next major change in the program at the University of Kentucky occurred in 1965 with the addition of junior and senior scholarships to provide additional monetary support. The work obligation, after graduation, was continued at one year for each year on scholarship, which could total four years. 


Additional Schools Added to Program

In 1965, the Appalachian Regional commission was established to promote highway improvement projects in the Appalachian region, which included the fifty eastern most counties in Kentucky. The increased need for highway technicians and technologists in Eastern Kentucky resulted in the establishment of a two-year civil engineering technology scholarship program at Southeast Community college beginning in 1968. The College Selection Committee chose sixteen freshmen students, and thirteen were able to finish the first year.  Freshman and sophomore recipients received the same monetary support as UK recipients and likewise were required to work one year for each year of scholarship. These recipients obtained an Associate of Science degree in Civil engineering technology (ASCET) upon graduation. The program was terminated in 1973 because of personnel changes at the institution and diminished need for technologists in the area.

In 1969, a four-year civil engineering technology scholarship program was initiated at Western Kentucky University (WKU). This program made an opportunity available to the department to pursue technologists for staffing the engineering support programs for the department. The program administration was similar to that at UK with the graduates obtaining a Bachelor of Science degree in Civil Engineering Technology (BSCET). Five individuals received scholarships the first year, and four went on to graduate. The WKU program was changed so that the students had an option to follow either a 3/2 or 2/2 pre-engineering curriculum at WKU, later transferring to UK to pursue the BSCE degree.

In 2003, Western Kentucky University began a Civil Engineering program which was accredited in 2005.  Scholarship students can now start and finish their degree at WKU. 

Also in 1969, a pilot program was established at the University of Louisville (UL) to provide information on the relative merits of a scholarship program versus the existing co-op system. UL scholarship recipients could receive a Bachelor of Science degree in Civil Engineering (BSCE) or a Master of Engineering degree (MENG), while one recipient received a BSCET degree. Five students were chosen the first year and four went on to graduate. The program at UL was on a small scale and ended in 1973 due to administrative problems and lack of interest. 

University of Louisville was reinstated as a university option in the fall of 2022. A new contract was established with the UL speed Scientific School to allow students to attend college on scholarship at UL.  The students must obtain their BSCE and their master's in engineering (Meng). The o-op assignments that are a part of the BSCE curriculum are usually carried out with the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet.  Currently, twelve students are on scholarship at the University of Louisville. 

Beginning in 1976, a dual-degree program was initiated at Kentucky State University (KSU) to recruit minority engineers for the department. Students take three years of pre-engineering course at KSU, and them transfer to the University of Kentucky for two years of engineering study. After successful completion of the first year at UK, students receive a Bachelor of Science in Applied Mathematics from KSU, and then receive a BSCE degree from UK upon completion of the second year at that school. Five individuals received scholarships the first year. The program at KSU is currently active. 


Program Administration

At the start of the program the Department expected those graduating to serve for a reasonable time, but no obligation was required.  Beginning in September 1952, all recipients were required to sign an agreement to serve the Department at least one year after graduation.  The student's parent was asked to co-sign.  This was only a moral obligation, as recipients could not be held to their agreements.  Beginning in 1965, a legally enforceable arrangement was initiated in which the student and the Department entered into a formal contract.  Again, the minor student's parents were asked to co-sign.  The contractual agreement is still in effect; the student agrees to work for the Transportation Cabinet one year for each year of the scholarship.  The contract is in force for the duration of the student's program.  Students who do not complete a BSCE degree, or do not accept permanent employment with the Transportation Cabinet after graduation, are required to repay the stipend monies they have received. 

Industry scholarship recipients received no department funds and though they could work for the department during the summers and were considered to be scholarship students in all other respects they had no obligation to work for the state after graduation. 

Initially, the program was coordinated through the Division of research because of their location on the University of Kentucky campus.  In 1965, the Office of Personnel Management assumed this task.  In 1976, coordination of the program was returned to the Division of Research where it remained until the Division of research was transferred to the University of Kentucky on January 1, 1981. 

From 1981 until December 2003, the Central Office of the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet coordinated the Scholarship Program.  Many different offices, from the State Highway Engineer's Office to the Division of Personnel Services, to the Department of Human Resources Management have administered the program.  In January 2004, the Scholarship Program was transferred back to the State Highway Engineer's Office, from where the program is currently administered. 


Curtailment, Reinstatement, and Growth

The program continued without interruption from 1948 through 1979.  In 1980, Governor John Y. Brown, Jr. and Transportation Secretary Frank Metts decided to curtail the program. Students already in the program were allowed to continue on stipend as long as their grades were satisfactory, but no new applications were to be taken. Summer jobs were not provided for scholarship students, and only fifteen graduating students were offered employment. Between May 1980 and August 1983, sixty-one graduates were informed that permanent employment was not available, and they were released from their obligation to work or refund their scholarships. 

Early in 1984, Governor Martha Layne Collins and Transportation Secretary Floyd Poore directed resumption of the scholarship program. A formal agreement was made between the Transportation Cabinet and each of the three universities – the UK College of Engineering, Western Kentucky University and Kentucky State University on March 19, 1984. The program was resumed at three schools – civil engineering scholarships at the University of Kentucky, pre-engineering scholarships at Kentucky State University, and civil engineering technology scholarships at Western Kentucky University. New scholarships were awarded beginning in the fall of 1984. The program, which was reinstated at a reduced level, was expected to provide approximately half of the Cabinet's annual need for graduate engineers and engineering technologists. The remainder would be employed through normal recruiting efforts. This was intended to allow adjustments due to variations in funding and workload in the numbers of engineers and technologists recruited, while allowing the scholarship program to be stable and not subject to large annual variations. 

Beginning with the 1997-98 academic year, UK freshman scholarship students could attend a community college following a pre-engineering curriculum for the initial one or two years prior to transferring to UK.

Scholarship students can receive a fifth-year scholarship to attend graduate school to obtain an MSCE degree.


Basic Provisions of Program

Each year there are eighty scholarship openings for new and returning students.  The deadline to apply is February 1 and recipients are notified by the end of April. Scholarships go into effect for the following fall semester. 

Applicants must be seeking, or planning on seeking, a civil engineering degree at the University of Kentucky, University of Louisville, or Western Kentucky University. Pre-engineering courses may also be taken at one of the schools through the Kentucky Community and Technical College System, with the intent to transfer to one of the three engineering colleges previously mentioned. Murray State University is currently undergoing steps for accreditation by EAC/ABET for their Civil and Sustainability Engineering program (expected in August 2023). Once accredited, those students will be eligible to participate in the scholarship program. 

High school seniors who apply must have a minimum composite ACT score of 24 and meet the admission requirements of the university to which they are applying. Upper grads (sophomore and above) must have a minimum GPA of 2.5.  Scholarship selection committees at each university select their top candidates for consideration. Prior to 2016, prior academic performance was the primary selection criterion. In 2016, personal interviews with each candidate selected by the committees were integrated into the selection process. Final selections are based on prior academic performance, extra-curricular activities, and interview results. 

Students on scholarship must maintain a minimum semester or cumulative GPA of 2.5 on a 4.0 scale. They must maintain full-time student status (12 hours per semester) and complete 30 hours at the end of each school year. Students are expected to work for the Cabinet during the summer months or for their required Co-op assignments (UL students). Summer salaries are based on the number of credit hours earned. The students agree by contract to work full time for the Cabinet immediately after graduation, one year for each school year the student is on scholarship. 


Scholarship Stipends

Scholarship students receive a stipend each semester according to their classification.  The stipend amounts have been increased at various times to stay abreast of increases in the cost to attend school.  In 1994, the stipend distribution changed from semi-monthly to one lump sum per semester. 

Stipend amounts were $60 per month from 1948 to 1957.  As of 2023, they are currently $7,200 (freshmen and sophomores) and $7,600 (juniors/seniors) per semester. At the current stipend rates, a student may receive up to $59,200 in stipends over a four-year period.


Summary of Program

The Kentucky Transportation Cabinet's Civil Engineering Scholarship Program has been the primary pipeline for the Cabinet's engineers over the years. In March of 2023, 64% of the engineers were scholarship recipients (265 out of 413). Many former students hold or have held responsible positions in the Cabinet.  These include Cabinet Secretary, State Highway Engineers, Assistant State Highway Engineers, Division Directors, and Chief District Engineers. The summer work provided to scholarship recipients provides on-the-jo training before graduation, provides a workforce to take care of seasonal needs, allows for preliminary evaluation of capabilities, and helps many who would otherwise not be able to attend college. 


Technology Scholarship Programs

In 2009, the Civil Engineering Technology (CET) Scholarship Program was created to provide monetary assistance for students to receive a two-year degree from either Big Sandy Community and Technical College (Prestonsburg) or Bluegrass Community and Technical College (Lexington). Students receive $3,000 per semester and are hired as Transportation Engineering Technologist I. 

In 2023, a new scholarship is being offered for students pursuing a four-year Construction Management (CM) degree at one of five schools – Eastern Kentucky University, Morehead State University, Murray State University, Northern Kentucky University, or Western Kentucky University. This scholarship was created to help fill Technologist vacancies state-wide as the CET program is primarily limited to Central and Eastern Kentucky.  

The Construction Management program is offered around the state and will help those districts that have not been able to receive benefit of the two-year program. The first recipients will receive the scholarship beginning the fall of 2023. Students will initially receive the same amount in stipends as the CE program - $7,200 (freshmen and sophomores) and $7,600 (juniors and seniors); however, there will be a difference in the amounts the next time the stipends are increased in order to distinguish between the CE and CM programs.  Graduates will be hired as Transportation Engineering Technologist I. 

Engineering Scholarship Timeline
​Scholarship Program was established at the University of Kentucky. Coordinated through the Division of Research at UK at $60/month stipends
Recipients were required to sign an agreement to serve the Highway Department at least one year after graduation (non-binding agreement)
Scholarships were offered for master's degrees in civil engineering
Sophomore scholarship was initiated
Recipients were required to sign a legally binding contract with the Highway Department. Students worked for the Cabinet one year for each year of the scholarship.  Stipend monies received must be repaid if obligations not met. Program coordination transferred to Office of Personnel Management.
Two-year civil engineering technology scholarship at Southeast Community College was established
Four-year civil engineering technology scholarship was initiated at Western Kentucky University
Pilot program established at the University of Louisville
Southeast Community College engineering technology scholarship program was terminated; University of Louisville pilot program ended.
Dual-degree program was initiated at Kentucky State University; Program coordination returned to the Division of Research.  
Program curtailed.  No new applications were accepted and no summer jobs provided
Program coordination transferred to the Office of Personnel Management of the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet
Scholarship program resumed at UK, KSU, and WKU
Graduate Studies Scholarship established at UK
Stipend disbursement changed from semi-monthly to once per semester
UK freshman students could attend a community college for the initial one or two years prior to transferring to UK
50th year reunion of Transportation Scholarship recipients
Developed a link for the Scholarship Program from the Department of Human Resources Management website
Scholarship program established at the University of Louisville
Western Kentucky University began a Civil Engineering program in the fall of 2003 and achieved accreditation in the spring of 2005
Administration of the Scholarship Program was transferred to the State Highway Engineer's Office
University Agreement signed with WKU for students to complete the full BSCE degree
60th anniversary of Civil Engineering Scholarship Program celebrated at Transportation Cabinet Office Building in Frankfort
Civil Engineering Technology Scholarship Program created; Revised contract to include Promissory Note along with an Educational Addendum
Incorporated personal interviews with candidates as part of selection process
Revised Promissory Note to include co-signor
Construction Management Scholarship created with first recipients being selected for the fall 2023 semester.
75th anniversary of the Civil Engineering Scholarship Program celebrated at Kentucky Transportation Cabinet Office Building in Frankfort






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