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Report shows Kentucky on track to meet educational attainment goal

FRANKFORT, Ky. — An annual progress report produced by the Council on Postsecondary Education shows that Kentucky is on track to reach its educational attainment goal of 60 percent of the working-age population with a certificate or degree by 2030.

The total number of undergraduate degrees and credentials conferred increased 2.9 percent in 2017-18 over the prior year, exceeding the 1.7 percent average annual increase needed to stay on track. This increase includes both the public and independent institutions.

“I personally want to thank our campuses for this spectacular progress, especially during a period of state budget cuts,” said Council President Aaron Thompson. “Their game-changing strategies to improve teaching and learning, advising and student support services are paying off for students across the state.”

The report tracks progress on key performance metrics aligned to the state’s strategic agenda, “Stronger by Degrees,” and includes 2020-21 targets for the state and institutions.

Key findings:

  • Undergraduate degree and credentials increased 2.6 percent at both the public universities and the Kentucky Community and Technical College System (KCTCS), ahead of the 1.7 percent increase needed to meet the 60 percent attainment goal by 2030.
  • The three-year graduation rate at KCTCS rose nearly 4 percentage points to 31 percent, which is now significantly higher than the national average of 24 percent.
  • The six-year graduation rate at the public universities rose 3.2 percentage points to 54.5 percent, a gain on the national average of 59 percent.
  • For the first time, increases in graduation rates for low-income and minority students were greater than increases in the overall rate. While achievement gaps still exist, they are beginning to narrow.
  • Many more developmental education students are finishing credit-bearing courses within a year of enrolling, a leading indicator for their eventual completion. When the Council first began tracking this metric in Fall 2013, only 32 percent of students in English and 20 percent in math completed the credit-bearing course in that subject within a year. Now, it is 45 percent and 26 percent respectively.
  • The percentage of adults with a postsecondary credential increased from 44.6 percent to 45.5 percent in 2017, up nearly a percentage point from the previous year.

The report noted that a key challenge to further progress is the decline in state General Fund appropriations, which is approaching $223 million since the recession or a 21 percent reduction in nominal dollars. Kentucky is one of 11 states where state higher education appropriations have not rebounded to pre-recession levels; per-student funding is lower now than in 2012-13 when adjusted for inflation.

The Council approved four undergraduate programs and three master’s programs:

  • Online Bachelor of Science in Business Administration in general business for the University of Kentucky (UK)
  • Bachelor of Arts in interdisciplinary disability studies for UK
  • Bachelor of Science in engineering physics for Northern Kentucky University (NKU)
  • Bachelor of Science in sustainable agriculture and community food systems for UK
  • Master of Science in athletic training for NKU.
  • Master of Science in bioengineering for the University of Louisville
  • Online Master of Science in science translation and outreach for UK

The Council approved 2019-20 tuition and mandatory fee increases for four institutions. For in-state, undergraduate students, the Council approved: 2.8 percent for Murray State University, which includes a newly adopted asset preservation fee; 2.7 percent for NKU; 1.9 percent for WKU; and a $5 per credit hour increase at KCTCS.

All increases complied with the two-year tuition and mandatory fee ceilings adopted in April 2018. Those ceilings were a maximum base rate of 6 percent over two years with no more than 4 percent in any one year for the research and comprehensive institutions. At KCTCS, the Council limited tuition and mandatory fee increases to no more than $12 per credit hour over two years, with a maximum allowable $8 per credit hour increase in any one year.

The Council also approved a memorandum of understanding between the Council and Kentucky State University (KSU) regarding nonresident student tuition. The agreement allows KSU to reduce its published out-of-state tuition charge to 1.5 times in-state tuition for nonresident students. The agreement also allows KSU to provide additional scholarship aid of up to $1,500 per semester for students from surrounding states and Michigan, and students from any state who major in a high-demand sector identified by the Kentucky Education and Workforce Development Cabinet.

In other action items, the Council:

  • Adopted the college readiness indicators that determine entry into credit-bearing college coursework that counts toward degree credit requirements.
  • Approved two additional standing committees – a finance committee and an academic and strategic initiatives committee.

The Council also heard reports from President Thompson, Education Commissioner Wayne Lewis, and reports from the campuses were available.

During the Thursday work session, the Council welcomed two new members: Dr. Brandon Wilson of Cunningham, Carlisle County, and Onyejindu (OJ) Oleka of Louisville.

Wilson is the agronomy manager for Davis Brothers Farms in Carlisle. He holds a Doctor of Philosophy from Auburn University, and a Master of Science and Bachelor of Science from Murray State University. Wilson formerly was the Racer Academy of Agriculture program coordinator at Murray State University, in addition to teaching several agriculture courses for the college of agriculture.

Oleka is the chief of staff for State Treasurer Allison Ball’s office, as well as the founder of Oleka Management Consulting firm. Oleka holds a Master of Business Administration from Bellarmine University and a Bachelor of Science from the University of Louisville. He is currently completing a Doctorate of Philosophy at Bellarmine University. Oleka has served on many education-related organizations, including the Kentucky Jump$tart Coalition, the Louisville Promise Scholarship workgroup and the Kentucky Department of Education Business and Education Advisory Panel.

The next meeting of the Council will be June 27-28 at Midway University.