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Bluegrass Tomorrow’s ‘Conversation with the Region on Education’ held discussion, agreed on principles


Bluegrass Tomorrow

One of the key principles of agreement that came out of The Conversation with the Region on Education, at Eastern Kentucky University was:

“Education is transformational, not transactional, and for generations to come education will transform students, communities and the Kentucky Economy.”

The event which was attended by 65 college and university presidents in the region, superintendents, principals, business and industry leaders and other education stakeholders was hosted by the Presidents of the Bluegrass Higher Education Consortium and is endeavoring to begin to change the narrative on education in the state and create an environment of cooperation and partnership between K-12 and Higher Education.

Another goal of the event was to begin to develop basic principles of agreement relating to education to begin that foundation for collaboration.

Other shared concepts of agreement:

Education is an investment in our future and an essential government service.

There needs to be a renewed focus on what is best for students and teachers.

Keynote speakers included Education Secretary Derrick Ramsey and Aaron Thompson, President of the Council on Postsecondary Education, and various issues for collaboration were explored including:

College & Career Readiness, Workforce Preparedness, Essential Skills and Employability Skills, Dual Credit-Early College, Creating a Pathway for Seamless Transfer.

The tone for the event was set by Dr. Jenny Minier, Professor of Economics & Director of the Center for the Business & Economic Research at the University of Kentucky, who opened the event with an economic outlook for the region and presented a final slide that indicated that only 18 of Kentucky’s 120 counties have Bachelor’s Degree Attainment better than 6% -23% of the population, and only 7 of the 18 counties in the Bluegrass Region exceeded those percentages.

Aaron Thompson

President Thompson spoke about putting the value back in higher education by creating a value proposition. He noted that the CPE goal is 60% of the population to have degrees or credentials by 2030.

He explained that the value proposition is that the percentages are overwhelmingly in the favor of those who earn degrees relative to earning power, job security, health, more engagement in community, and leaving a legacy of learning. He pointed out that over the last decade undergraduate degrees and credentials have increased 39.7 percent and short-term certificates have increased 72 percent, while at the same time student debt has dramatically increased, college costs have increased at a similar rate, and state funding for higher education has decreased by 14.8 percent.

Secretary Ramsey said, “It’s a great time of opportunity in our state. We as a Commonwealth need to open our eyes and see that traditional four-year college degrees are not for everyone.”

He explained his support of dual path apprenticeship programs that work well in Europe because there is a need for graduates to be ready on Day 1 for work. He also noted that he was glad that university presidents were taking the lead on the need for cooperation because “universities have an obligation to teach us how to get along and work together.”

Marci Smith Vice Principal at West Jessamine High School and Vince Mattox dual credit director at Kentucky State University brought a great model to the table on Early College/Dual Credit, and Tonya Crum of KET discussed House Bill 3 which mandates essential skill and employability schools be taught to students. Karen Mayo, Academic Dean at Bluegrass Community and Technical College explained how they have created a pathway for seamless transfer with U.K. EKU and others. All three of these issues are prime for collaboration.

Derrick Ramsey

Karen Russell of the EKU Facilitation Center, moderated the discussions at the event focusing on other areas of possible collaboration between K-12 and Higher Education and all of the following were discussed:

Paid Mentorships, Free Pre-K for 4 yr. old’s, Enhanced Retention of Minorities, Collaboration between “content faculty & teachers”, parental involvement, dual credit training for high school teachers, impending problem of teacher shortages, programs offered (everyone doesn’t have to offer the same courses), developing values-driven messages to the General Assembly, improving our pre-school systems, linked learning, develop a superintendents leadership academy to learn more about university operations and openness, more focus on what students want rather than what state mandates, learning and achievement gaps, expanded teacher scholarship programs.

A few overarching common themes:

“nothing has changed in the last 100 years because employers still want the soft skills, on time, ability to learn, essential skills…”

Lack of Communication on all levels needs to be addressed if unification is a possibility.

Expanded support for the teaching profession

Expanded focus on parental/adult involvement.

Next Steps are:

Implement a leadership advisory group, chaired by a President and a Superintendent to sift through all issues discussed to develop basic principles of agreement and opportunities for collaboration.

Plan a second event in Frankfort during the short session, where education stakeholders and members of the General Assembly would be invited to a luncheon with keynote speaker where outcomes and principles of agreement can be presented.

The Bluegrass Higher Education Consortium was organized by Bluegrass Tomorrow and chartered in 2012 with the goal of improving the Bluegrass Region economically and educationally.

Member institutions include:

Asbury University, Berea College, Bluegrass Community and Technical College, Centre College, Eastern Kentucky University, Georgetown College, Midway University, Morehead State University, Kentucky State University, Sullivan University, Transylvania University, University of Kentucky.


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