Report shows educational attainment remains on the rise in Kentucky

Report shows educational attainment remains on the rise in Kentucky

educational attainment

FRANKFORT, Ky. — Kentucky moved ever closer to its educational attainment goals in the 2018-19 academic year as the combined number of undergraduate degrees and credentials conferred rose 3.5%, according to a report from the state Council on Postsecondary Education (CPE).

Nearly 47% of Kentucky adults now have a postsecondary credential, up from 42.5% in 2014. That’s a 4.5% gain compared to a national 3% gain during the same time period.

Growth in yearly credentials conferred keeps Kentucky on track to meet CPE’s 60×30 goal, an ambitious effort for 60% of the working-age population to have earned a postsecondary degree or credential by 2030. That will position the state to accelerate job growth over the next decade with a more skilled, productive workforce.

CPE President Dr. Aaron Thompson said rising attainment levels will also help shore up the state’s labor pool in the near term as it contends with the economic repercussions of COVID-19.

“Without question, this pandemic has created new and significant challenges, but the momentum is on our side, and I appreciate the hard work by campuses to move our state forward,” said Thompson. “COVID-19 will test our resolve, but if we redouble our focus on innovation and workforce development, Kentucky will benefit from a faster and more robust economic recovery.”

The numbers are part of CPE’s annual progress report, which tracks key performance metrics across Kentucky higher education, including both public and private institutions. CPE established the metrics – and the 60×30 goal – in its 2016-2021 strategic agenda, “Stronger by Degrees.”

To meet the goal, Kentucky needs a 1.7% average annual increase in undergraduate degrees and credentials.

In 2018-19, short-term certificates awarded by the Kentucky Community and Technical College System accounted for most of the growth; degrees and credentials awarded by KCTCS increased 4.8% over the previous year, while the number of bachelor’s degrees at Kentucky’s four-year institutions remained essentially flat across the state.

Other key findings in the report show:

  • Bachelor’s degrees conferred to minority students at public and private institutions increased 5.3%.
  • At KCTCS, associate degrees rose 2.2%; short-term certificates jumped 6.5%; and credentials awarded to minority students increased 7.4%.
  • Total master’s, professional and doctoral degrees climbed 14.3%.
  • The six-year graduation rate for public four-year institutions hit 55%, up from 54.5% in the previous year. The three-year rate at KCTCS rose to 33.9%, up from 31%.
  • First-year to second-year retention increased 1.3% to 78.2% at public universities, and 2.2% to 55.5% at KCTCS.

The state also faces challenges in higher education aside from COVID-19. According to the report, state funding for public institutions has remained essentially level while the cost for students continues to increase.

In addition, Kentucky’s in-state college-going rate fell for the fourth consecutive year, enrollment among adults 25 and older decreased, and the percentage of KCTCS associate degree graduates who transferred to a four-year institution declined.

However, Thompson praised campuses for embracing the challenges ahead.

“We face a steep climb in many respects. But campuses are undertaking tremendous efforts to strengthen outreach and student support, and we can continue to make progress in many key areas,” he said. “When we look to the rest of the year, let’s not settle for a year with an asterisk. Let’s end 2020 with an exclamation point.”

The report and highlights can be accessed at