Kentucky Readiness Policies


High School and Postsecondary Alignment

SREB’s Challenge to Lead 2020 goals call for states to align middle grades and high school policies with college-readiness standards, to recognize multiple paths to graduation and to provide students with diverse postsecondary options and resources. The following tabs summarize how Kentucky aligns its policies to promote smooth transitions for students through high school and beyond.  


College and Career Readiness Definitions

College readiness is the level of preparation a student needs to succeed in credit-bearing courses in college. ‘Succeed’ is defined as completing entry-level courses at a level of understanding and proficiency that prepares the student for subsequent courses. Kentucky’s system-wide standards of readiness guarantee students access to credit-bearing coursework without the need for remediation in high school or college coursework or intervention programming.


College and Career Planning in K-12

Starting in sixth grade, students develop Individual Learning Plans that align with their academic and career interests. Each district must provide information on career opportunities and financial aid.

Students write their plans with the help of parents or guardians and school counselors. The plans outline the student’s learning goals and helps guide the course of their studies through middle school, high school, and college. The plan emphasizes postsecondary goal setting and the pursuit of a robust academic experience, including appropriate extracurricular activities and electives.

State law requires the Education and Workforce Development Cabinet to publish information on the employment and earnings of college graduates in the state, so that high school students can make better-informed decisions about future careers.

The Kentucky Council on Postsecondary Education administers the federally funded GEAR UP program in 12 school districts. GEAR UP Kentucky helps prepare middle grades and high school students for college and to create or expand programs that strengthen schools.

The state administers the ACT for all 11th-grade students.

The Kentucky Higher Education Assistance Authority provides access to multiple online tools for Kentucky students and their families to help them plan, apply, and pay for college. Current Web resources can be found at and


High School Graduation Requirements

Course and Diploma Requirements for Students Entering the Ninth Grade in 2020-2021 and Beyond

Students must complete at least 22 units to earn a standard high school diploma. Students must complete one or more of the following requirements:

  1. Complete the precollege curriculum as established by the Council on Postsecondary Education.
  2. Earn a benchmark score on one section of a college admissions or placement exam.
  3. Complete three postsecondary credit hours or more of a KDE-approved dual credit course with a grade of C or higher.
  4. Complete one course that meets the following criteria:
    1. Advance placement with a score of three or higher;
    2. Cambridge Advanced International with a score of E or higher; or
    3. International baccalaureate with a score of five or higher.
  5. Obtain a Kentucky Workforce Innovation Board approved industry certification.
  6. Complete four credits from valid courses within a KDE-approved career pathway.
  7. Receive verification for completing 500 hours of exceptional work experience or alternative requirements as prescribed in a student’s IEP.
  8. Complete two years in an approved pre-apprenticeship or apprenticeship program.



Required Courses




English I

English II

Two additional English courses

Options include English III, English IV, and other dual credit and AP courses



Algebra I


Two additional math courses

Options include Algebra II, Precalculus, College Algebra, Calculus, dual credit CTE math, and other dual credit and AP courses



Lab-based science experiences

Options include Chemistry, Physics, Biology, CSI Forensics, and other dual credit and AP courses

Social Studies


Three social studies courses

Options include Social Studies I, II, and III, Geography, World History, US History, Economics, and other AP courses



Credit to include the content strands of individual well-being, consumer decision, personal wellness, mental wellness, and community services

Physical Education 


Credit to include the content strands of personal wellness, psychomotor, and lifetime activity

History and Appreciation of Visual and Performing Arts


Credit to include the content strands of creating, performing/producing/presenting, responding, and connecting

Credits aligned with a student’s Individualized Learning Plan


Credits to include at least four (4) standards-based learning experiences in an academic or career interest based on the student’s Individual Learning Plan

Total Credits



To be eligible for graduation, students must also take a financial literacy standards program or course, demonstrate performance-based competency in technology, receive instruction in essential workplace skills, and maintain and update an Individualized Learning Plan each year of high school.

Assessment Requirements

High school students take ACT Quality Core end-of-course tests in English 0I, Algebra II, Biology I, and U.S. History. Students must also pass a Civics test. Grade 10 students may be administered the ACT depending on available state funding. Students in grade 11 take both the Kentucky Performance Rating for Educational Progress exam and the ACT. Twelfth grade students who do not meet ACT benchmarks must take the KYOTE, or Kentucky Online Testing in designated subjects. Students enrolled in CTE courses may take the KOSSA or Kentucky Occupational Skills Standards Assessment after completing two credits as well as the ACT WorkKeys upon enrolling in a third CTE credit in an approved career pathway.


Accelerated Learning Options in High School

Competency-Based Credit

704 KAR 3:305 authorizes districts to develop a policy to award performance-based credits, provided that the experiences for which credits are awarded align with the Kentucky Academic Standards. Examples include senior year or capstone projects, dual credit courses, and work-based learning experiences (internships, apprenticeships, cooperative learning experiences and other supervised learning experiences in the school and community).

Career and Technical Education

Kentucky has adopted the National Career Clusters Framework. Students enrolled in career and technical education courses may take the Kentucky Occupational Skills Standards Assessment after completing two credits as well as the ACT WorkKeys upon enrolling in a third CTE credit in an approved career pathway. State law allows for the substitution of career-technical courses for specific graduation course requirements, and some career and technical education courses may qualify for dual credit if they are approved under the Kentucky Council on Postsecondary Education’s dual credit policy.

Students can accelerate their learning in several ways through CTE. These include earning industry-recognized certifications, gaining certification through the Career and Technical Education End-of-Program Assessment for Articulated Credit and earning CTE dual credit. Students who earn a C or higher in two KDE-approved CTE dual credit courses in the same program area will be identified as career ready.

Students can also participate in the Tech Ready Apprentices for Careers in Kentucky youth apprenticeship program, a partnership between the Kentucky Department of Education’s Office of Career and Technical Education and the Kentucky Office of Apprenticeship. TRACK provides high school students with career pathway opportunities into Registered Apprenticeship programs and enables students to earn nationally recognized credentials at little or no cost.

Dual Enrollment and Dual Credit

Dual credit allows students to take college-level courses and earn high school and college credit concurrently. Public colleges and universities partner with districts to provide dual credit opportunities, which may be provided at the student’s high school or on a college campus.

Kentucky requires that all high school students have access to a minimum of three general education and three career and technical education courses throughout their secondary career. To be eligible for enrollment, students must meet the postsecondary institution’s requirements for admission into the program and placement requirements for its college-level courses.

Costs associated with dual credit vary based on district-institution agreements. Students and their parents must receive a written statement explaining tuition and fees. KRS 164.786 established the Dual Credit Scholarship Program to help provide “dual credit coursework opportunities at no cost to eligible Kentucky high school students.” High schools are required to apply for dual credit scholarship funds, and students may receive available funding that covers “a maximum of two successfully completed dual credit courses.”

Dual enrollment is when students are enrolled both in high school and at a college or university and earn college credit at a postsecondary institution. Dually enrolled students do not earn high school credit for their postsecondary coursework.

Although most Kentucky high school students pursue dual credit/concurrent enrollment options through open enrollment in the Kentucky Community and Technical College System, students may also pursue college credit online through the Kentucky Virtual University or in the classroom through state and private universities, if they fulfill institutional admission requirements.

Advanced Placement/International Baccalaureate

Kentucky offers almost 30 college-level AP courses as well as three International Baccalaureate programs to high school students. AP-enrolled high school students may be awarded college credit for a course based on their numerical scores on end-of-course AP exams. The Kentucky Department of Education pays AP and IB exam fees for students enrolled in the Free or Reduced Lunch Program.

Kentucky considers Cambridge Advanced International Education courses to be advanced coursework as well. Students who complete a course and pass the corresponding exam can earn credit towards his or her Academic Readiness.

Early College High Schools

Also referred to as Middle Colleges, these are partnerships between high schools and the Kentucky Community and Technical College System that allow students to earn college credits while completing their high school diploma. Early Colleges may be set up as high schools located on college campuses or may be college-level courses offered on a high school campus. Eligibility requirements, available college credits and associated costs vary by institution.

Early High School Graduation

Beginning with the 2023-24 school year, students in grades nine-11 may pursue an early graduation pathway through which they may qualify to receive a diploma and be eligible for acceptance into any public university or nonprofit, independent college or university in Kentucky. To qualify, the student must do the following:

  • Document their intent to graduate early within 30 days of the academic year in which the student intends to graduate
  • Graduate in three years or less
  • Meet the state’s college-readiness exam benchmarks
  • Take part in the state administration of the college entrance exam prior to junior year, if needed
  • Earn 10 foundational credits that include the academic content standards of Kentucky
  • Meet the school’s financial literacy requirement
  • Obtain a passing grade on the civics test

An Early Graduation Certificate provides some financial support for students to attend college immediately after early graduation


Postsecondary Admission Requirements

KRS 164.020(8) requires that the Council on Postsecondary Education set minimum admission standards for students who wish to enroll at public postsecondary education institutions.

Four-Year Institutions

First-time freshmen must show that they have completed the Pre-College Curriculum with a minimum GPA of 2.5 or higher and have earned benchmark scores on college readiness assessment. Institutions may admit students with a GPA between 2.0 and 2.49 if a learning contract is executed prior to enrollment. Out-of-state students should complete a college-preparatory curriculum comparable to Kentucky’s Pre-College Curriculum.

In addition to the Kentucky minimum high school diploma requirements, the Pre-College Curriculum requires two consecutive years of a world language or demonstrated proficiency. State policy authorizes institutions to substitute the SAT for the ACT Assessment and to set additional admission criteria.

Two-Year and/or Technical Colleges

Applicants must possess a standard high school diploma or GED credential, or be eligible to pursue a GED credential.


Postsecondary Placement Policies


The Kentucky Council on Postsecondary Education revised the placement requirements beginning with the 2019-20 academic year.

Students who meet or exceed the state’s minimum qualifying scores (see table) on one of five assessments are exempt from completing developmental education or co-requisite coursework. The council also sets cut scores for placement into three credit-bearing math courses: quantitative reasoning, college algebra and calculus.

Kentucky’s Minimum College Readiness Benchmarks

Readiness Area








480 or 25






480 or 25




Math (Quantitative Reasoning)






Math (College Algebra)






Math (Calculus)







State Financial Aid for Undergraduates

Merit-Based Aid

The Kentucky Higher Education Assistance Authority administers the lottery-funded Kentucky Educational Excellence Scholarship, a merit aid program. The program provides financial support for state residents based on their academic performance throughout high school. The value of the award increases for each year of high school in which a student maintains a 2.5 or higher grade-point average in the Pre-College Curriculum.

Students may earn Bonus Awards based on their ACT or SAT composite scores and test scores in advanced courses including AP, IB, and Cambridge Advanced International courses. Students who were eligible for free or reduced-priced meals at any time during high school may earn Supplemental Awards based on their performance on Advanced Placement, International Baccalaureate, and Cambridge Advanced International exams. 

First-time recipients receive a scholarship equivalent to the base, bonus, and supplement award amounts.  Students may renew their full scholarship award if they maintain a 3.0 GPA and are “on track to graduate” — determined by completing a specified number of course hours. Students can receive half of the award amount if they fall below the 3.0 GPA threshold but maintain at least a 2.5 GPA or if they fall below the course hours required to be on track to graduate. Students may regain the scholarship if they meet renewal criteria by the end of the spring semester.

Act 186 (2019) authorizes the use of Kentucky Educational Excellence Scholarship funds for qualified workforce training programs providing instruction in one of Kentucky’s five high-demand work sectors. Students enrolled in these programs are eligible to receive reimbursement for tuition and other approved educational expenses.

Need-Based Aid

The College Access Program Grant provides need-based aid to residents enrolling in eligible public, nonpublic, proprietary, and technical institutions. The maximum award is $2,500 for two-year institutions and $5,300 for four-year institutions.

The Kentucky Tuition Grant provides need-based aid to residents enrolling in eligible nonpublic colleges. The maximum award amount is $3,300.

Act 102 (2019) creates the Work Ready Kentucky Scholarship, which will provide financial aid to residents enrolled in certain industry-recognized certificate, diploma, or associate of applied science degree programs. The award will cover tuition and required fees.


The Early Childhood Development Scholarship provides financial aid to Kentucky students pursuing one of the following: child development associate credential, associate degree in early childhood education, bachelor’s degree in interdisciplinary early childhood education or a related program approved by the Early Childhood Development Authority, or Kentucky Early Childhood Development Director’s Certificate. Students must be enrolled in no more than 9 credit hours per term and be employed at least 20 hours per week in a participating early childhood facility or be employed as a preschool associate teacher in a state-funded pre-school program. Participants must not be eligible for state or federal training funds through Head Start, a public preschool program, or First Steps and must agree to a service commitment based on the credential pursued. Awards may be up to $1,800 per year.

The Teacher Scholarship Program provides financial aid to Kentucky students pursuing teacher certification at participating Kentucky colleges. Students must demonstrate financial need and teach for one semester at a Kentucky public or certified non-public school for each semester the scholarship is received. Awards may be up to $2,500 per semester.


Postsecondary Feedback to High Schools

The Kentucky Center for Statistics, through the Kentucky Longitudinal Data System, provides state, district and school level High School Feedback Reports. These include postsecondary enrollment rates at in-state institutions, the percentage of graduates meeting the college and/or career-ready benchmarks, average high school and first-year college indicators and the average number of freshman year credits earned.