Kentucky passes goal for number of STEM+H degrees 2 years early

FRANKFORT, Ky. (May 7, 2020) – Kentucky’s public universities chalked up another win for workforce readiness in 2018-19, surpassing a major milestone for bachelor’s degrees in high-demand STEM+H fields – science, technology, engineering, math and health care.

The state’s strategic plan, “Stronger by Degrees,” called on universities to produce at least 6,620 STEM+H degrees annually by the 2020-21 academic year. However, campuses have reached that goal two years early.

According to the latest progress report from the Kentucky Council on Postsecondary Education (CPE), public universities awarded 6,685 such degrees last year. That’s up 2% over 2017-18 and 31% over the past five years.

CPE President Aaron Thompson said the gains will add more resiliency and diversification to Kentucky’s economy as the nation seeks to recover from COVID-19.

“These numbers are a prime example of why higher education matters,” Thompson said. “Every year, our campuses are arming thousands of students with the skills for high-wage industries. That strengthens our economy, grows our tax base and prepares the next generation for long, rewarding careers.”

In addition to bachelor’s degrees, associate degrees and credentials are also on the rise.

The Kentucky Community and Technical College System (KCTCS) increased output of STEM+H degrees and credentials from 12,552 in 2017-18 to 13,155 last year, a 4.8% jump that moves KCTCS closer to its adjusted goal of 13,488. KCTCS met its original goal in the 2016-17.

Kentucky has long sought to boost education and jobs in STEM+H fields.

In 2016, the state legislature directed CPE to develop a performance funding model for campuses that ties public funding to achievement. That includes incentives to grow the number of degrees and credentials that garner higher salaries upon graduation, such as STEM+H degrees.

Proponents point to studies showing that a STEM+H degree provides a high rate of return for both students and the state overall.

For instance, a recent CPE analysis found that, two years after graduation, students with a bachelor’s degree in STEM will earn about $34,000 a year. A bachelor’s degree in health care offers even more – around $50,000 annually.

Below is a breakdown of campuses with the gains in STEM+H degrees and credentials in 2018-19.

STEM+H Degree and Credentials, 2017-18 to 2018-19

– KCTCS, up from 12,552 to 13,155

– Morehead State University, up from 384 to 385

– Murray State University, up from 719 to 730

– Northern Kentucky University, up from 679 to 694

– University of Kentucky, up from 1,908 to 2,042

– University of Louisville, up from 1,038 to 1,056

– Eastern Kentucky University was down from 900 to 873, but exceeded its target of 820 for the second consecutive year.