A nonprofit publication of the Kentucky Center for Public Service Journalism

CPE report: 60 percent of state’s working-age adults will have postsecondary credential by 2030


Kentucky’s colleges and universities are on track to increase the educational attainment of the state’s working-age population from 45 percent of the population with a postsecondary credential to 60 percent by the year 2030.

The Council on Postsecondary Education approved an annual progress report that shows undergraduate degrees and credentials at Kentucky’s public and independent colleges and universities totaled 59,009 in 2016-17, an increase of 7.4 percent over the prior year.

Combined with graduate degrees, total degree and credential growth climbed 6.6 percent overall.

The highest growth came from short-term certificates awarded by the Kentucky Community and Technical College System, increasing 16 percent to 22,759 awards for the year. Increases in high-demand workforce certificates were reported, including computer information sciences, 60 percent; electrician, 33 percent; industrial mechanics and maintenance technology, 54 percent; welding, 30 percent; and diesel mechanics, 28 percent.

Other increases include:

• Associate degrees at KCTCS increased 3 percent to 9,950.

• Bachelor’s degrees were up 2 percent to 23,189.

• Minority bachelor’s degrees increased 8 percent to 2,920.

• STEM+H (science, technology, engineering, math and health) bachelor’s degrees increased 5 percent to 7,459.

• Master’s, professional and doctoral degrees climbed 3 percent to 10,639.

• High school equivalency diplomas (GEDs) increased 7 percentage points to 3,299.

“I have been encouraging our campuses to get ‘better, faster.’ The data we unveiled show that in nearly every metric our campuses are doing exactly that,” said council president Bob King.

“Credit goes to all — from our presidents, provosts, faculty and staff — for getting more of our students across the finish line, to our students for achieving their educational goal,” King said.

The Council set the attainment goal of 60 percent of Kentucky’s working-age population with a credential or degree by 2030 with the 2016 adoption of the new strategic agenda, “Stronger by Degrees: A Plan to Create a More Educated and Prosperous Kentucky.” The agenda includes a set of key performance metrics with 2020-21 targets for the state and institutions.

Moving closer to the national average in educational attainment will make Kentucky more competitive in an economy where the vast majority of newly created jobs since the recession are going to people with a postsecondary credential.

Other key findings in the report include:

• Graduation and retention rates continue to improve.

• Kentucky public institutions remain competitive with SREB states on average net price (out-of-pocket costs). Average net price at Kentucky comprehensive universities has remained essentially unchanged since 2012-13.

• State funding per full-time student fell to $5,848 in 2016-17 and has declined 35 percent since 2007-08, the start of the recession.

• Currently, about 1.2 million working-age Kentuckians do not have a college degree. Enrolling more of these students will be challenging, as the percentage of adult students without a prior associate degree or higher has fallen from 4 percent in fall 2013 to 3 percent in fall 2016.

The progress report offers a detailed look at statewide and institutional performance on these metrics since their adoption. The report includes baseline year data for most of the metrics, and at least two years of trend data. It also includes 2016-17 data for all but a few metrics, which is the most recent year available.

Subsets of the progress report include metrics for the new diversity, equity and inclusion policy and the new performance-funding model.


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