The Robinson Scholars Program serves first generation college students who demonstrate the potential to succeed but who might encounter economic, cultural, or institutional impediments to their completion of four-year college degrees. Our 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 serve as active citizen leaders in their communities.
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. A significant portion of those funds were allocated to provide scholarships to students in 29 eastern Kentucky counties with historically low rates of college attendance and degree attainment. 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 our inception, the Program has named more than 600 students as Robinson Scholars, and our historical graduation rates are about double the national average for first generation students. In 2010, we revised our scholarship selection process as well as our approach to high school programming. As a result of our efforts since that time, our retention of college students has equaled or surpassed the overall University average for all students.
The program has two distinct elements: college preparation for high school students and scholarships and support services for college students selected to be Robinson Scholars. The goal of the high school program is to negate what are commonly understood as first generation effects. Nationally, first generation students (those whose parents do not hold 4-year degrees) attend college at lower rates and graduate from college at significantly lower rates than their non-first generation counterparts. Our college program focuses on involvement of Scholars in the many opportunities afforded students at the state’s flagship University. Our goal is to retain and graduate all Robinson Scholars and help them find meaningful careers in their route to becoming citizen leaders in our region, state, and nation.
In recognition of the potential obstacles facing first generation, Appalachian students, we select about 87 high school freshmen each year to participate in our extensive college enrichment opportunities, at no cost to participants. Our core values of academic excellence, community service, and personal responsibility emphasize the importance of college preparation and a lifetime of investment in our communities, both as individuals and as a program. Robinson Scholars are held to a high standard of leadership, service, and personal commitment to excellence. To remain active in our high school program, students must maintain a 3.00 GPA or better, enroll in Kentucky’s accepted pre-college curriculum, seek personal enrichment, and accept active leadership roles in their schools and communities.
Students receiving UK’s Robinson Scholarship, must extend these requirements to their college careers. As members of the University community, Robinson Scholars maintain an average GPA that exceeds the University of Kentucky average and dedicate thousands of hours of community service each year to eastern Kentucky, the University, and to the Robinson Scholars Program itself. Our alumni have proven successful in their communities as physicians, pharmacists, lawyers, educators, and business professionals. Our graduating Class of 2014 included UK’s valedictorian, and we are proud that two of our alumni hold key leadership roles within the program.
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.