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Louisville not on track to reach 55,000 Degrees goal

More than 41 percent of working adults have a college degree

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (Dec. 2, 2014) — More Louisville residents have college degrees than ever before, but the city is not on track to reach its goal of 50 percent of adults holding college degrees by 2020, according to the 2014 Progress Report released today by 55,000 Degrees.

City colleges have awarded 37,000 associate and bachelor’s degrees since 2010. But, concerns about cost and the value of a college degree are behind a troubling drop in college enrollment nationally and locally, the report says.

55,000“We’re making progress, but more must be done,” said Mayor Greg Fischer, chairman of the 55,000 Degrees board. “We not only have to get high school graduates and adult learners to college, we have to get them to the finish line. It matters to the individuals and our entire city. A more educated community attracts better, higher-paying jobs.”

Fischer called on more members of the business community to play an active role in the initiative by defining the skills that are needed so colleges can rapidly respond with applicable courses preparing students for jobs of the future. Business leaders can also step up to help adult learners become degree earners by investing with tuition support, flexible schedules and peer mentors. He also pointed out that growing more high-skill/high-wage jobs will help attract and retain talent in our community.

Among the most troubling findings in the report is the decrease in college enrollment — a predictor of declines in future degree completions, said Mary Gwen Wheeler, 55,000 Degrees executive director. Concerns about cost and value of a college education are causing more high school graduates and returning adult learners to veer off the path to a college degree.

The report found:

  • 41.5 percent of working adults in Louisville have a college degree
  • Post-secondary degree completions continue to climb
  • Number of undergraduate degrees completed has risen to almost 10,000 per year
  • 13 percent increase in bachelor’s degrees over the past four years
  • 26 percent increase in associate degrees over the past four years
  • More Jeffeson County Public Schools students are graduating, with the number of graduates in 2014 at 79 percent, up 2.5 points
  • At 61 percent, more JCPS graduates are college and/or career ready
  • At current pace, the 50 percent target won’t be hit until 2030
  • With faster than expected population growth, 59,000 degrees are needed to reach the goal of 50 percent of working-age adults with a college degree
  • Fewer JCPS high school graduates are going to and finishing college, with the College-going rate having dropped to under 66 percent
  • JCPS college-finishing rate is 20 points below the national average, only 40 percent of college-going JCPS seniors get a degree within six years
  • 20 percent of JCPS FAFSA filers did not enroll in college in 12 months
  • Louisville-area colleges have seen a 7,400 student decline since 2010
  • Fewer adult learners are completing their degrees
  • Persistence of adult learners – continued enrollment at any institution – has declined 13 percentage points over the past four years to 42 percent
  • If trends persist, only 1 in 3 local college graduates will be working in the Louisville area five years after graduation