In 1991, the University of Kentucky Board of Trustees approved a plan that set aside coal and timber royalties from a 5,000-acre section of the Robinson Forest to support economic and community development efforts in Appalachian Kentucky. The Board allocated a significant portion of those funds to provide scholarships to students in 29 eastern Kentucky counties with historically low rates of college attendance. In 1996, the University approved a working plan for the Robinson Scholars Program, and the first class of Scholars was selected in the spring of 1997. Since then, the Program has named 510 students as Robinson Scholars.
The Robinson Scholars Program serves first generation college-bound and college students who have demonstrated the potential to succeed but who might encounter economic, cultural, or institutional impediments to their completion of four-year college degrees. The Program's mission is to provide these students with support services and scholarship resources that empower them to complete a baccalaureate degree at the University of Kentucky and thereby increase the educational capital of their communities. In recognition of the potential obstacles facing these students, the program identifies Scholars in the eighth grade. This approach recognizes the importance of academic support, social mentoring, and college preparation throughout high school. Robinson Scholars who successfully complete all of the Program's eligibility requirements, including graduation from high school and matriculation at the University of Kentucky, Lexington Community College, or any KCTCS community college, receive scholarships and support services at the college level.
The Robinson Scholars Program service area includes the following 29 counties: Bell, Breathitt, Carter, Clay, Elliott, Estill, Floyd, Harlan, Jackson, Johnson, Knott, Knox, Laurel, Lawrence, Lee, Leslie, Letcher, Magoffin, Martin, McCreary, Menifee, Morgan, Owsley, Perry, Pike, Powell, Rockcastle, Whitley and Wolfe.