FRANKFORT, Ky. — The Kentucky Council on Postsecondary Education (CPE) unveiled the 2022-2030 state plan for higher education. Higher Education Matters: A Statewide Strategic Agenda for Kentucky Postsecondary Education serves as a blueprint to meet Kentucky’s educational attainment goal—to raise the percentage of Kentuckians with a postsecondary degree or certificate to 60% by the year 2030.
Over the last decade, Kentucky has improved educational attainment at a rapid pace, increasing from 30.4% to the current level of 49.4%, just shy of the national average. The new plan provides a roadmap to steer the state to the 60% goal.
“This agenda advances a bold plan for building a competitive workforce through a strong post-secondary education system so Kentuckians can thrive professionally and personally and meet the evolving needs of the economy,” said CPE President Aaron Thompson.
“Achieving our educational attainment goal is critical to providing an opportunity for more Kentuckians, accelerating job creation and growing the economy,” he added.
The plan was released in conjunction with Thompson’s State of Higher Education address. Key leaders joined for a panel discussion, including Murray State University President Robert Jackson; Kentucky Education Commissioner Jason E. Glass; Kentucky Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Ashli Watts; and Aliya Cannon, Northern Kentucky University’s student body president.
The agenda identifies five strategic priorities for higher education that will guide innovation and improvement through 2030, with an additional one — equity — as a cross-cutting priority. The other priorities are affordability, transitions, success, talent and value.
Public colleges and universities will develop campus-level strategies that align with the objectives included in each priority area. All strategies will be reviewed and revised every three years, and CPE and campuses will set numeric targets for key performance indicators to monitor progress. The targets will also be updated on a three-year cycle.
Creating equitable education opportunities for Kentucky’s low-income students and underrepresented minorities (URM) is a critical focus of the agenda. While degree production for minoritized students has increased 37% since 2016, outpacing overall credential growth, educational attainment of underrepresented minority Kentuckians still trails that of their white counterparts by a considerable margin.
To address this challenge, CPE’s comprehensive diversity, equity and inclusion policy requires institutions to increase enrollment, retention and completion for URM and low-income students and improve cultural competence on campus. Additionally, the state’s performance funding model places a premium on degrees awarded to underrepresented and low-income students.
For the value priority, Thompson announced the launch of a statewide public awareness campaign, also titled Higher Education Matters. The goal is to elevate the public’s understanding that postsecondary education is key to greater opportunity and economic growth.
The campaign will promote college-going to counteract an in-state college-going rate that has been steadily declining. Also, fewer nontraditional adult students are enrolling for the first time or returning to finish a credential.
CPE is partnering with the state’s public colleges and universities on the campaign, which runs through June 30.
Thompson said there are a lot of stories in the media that undercut higher education’s value, but the data prove that college credentials produce a positive return on investment for Kentuckians and the state.
Over a lifetime, college graduates with a bachelor’s degree in Kentucky can expect to earn $1 million more than high school graduates. During the pandemic, they were much less likely to be unemployed or have their hours reduced.
Because they earn higher salaries, college graduates spend more money and pay more taxes. They are much less likely to be unemployed and on public assistance.
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