A nonprofit publication of the Kentucky Center for Public Service Journalism

In a changing economy, more Kentuckians are completing undergraduate degrees

By Nadia Ramlagan
Public News Service

More than 23,000 Kentuckians received a bachelor’s degree in 2018, according to a new report. That’s a 2% increase over the previous year.

The report also found graduation rates for low-income and minority students were higher than the overall graduation rate. Aaron Thompson, president of the Kentucky Council on Post-Secondary Education, said the state is on track to reach its goal of 60% of the working-age population completing a degree or certificate by 2030.

More Kentuckians are receiving undergraduate degrees, according to a new report. (Adobe Stock, via PNS)

“The governor has clearly stated that he wants this to be the advanced manufacturing capital of the world,” Thompson said. “And with that, he has doubled down on his agenda, as well as the House and the Senate, to talk about how can we ramp up, if you will, those credentials that will fulfill those middle-skill jobs.”

Thompson said manufacturing, health care and information technology are poised to dominate Kentucky’s employment landscape. These fields tend to require workers with some level of specialized training.

However, 1.2 million working-age Kentuckians currently do not have a college degree, and the number of adult students enrolled fell from 4% in 2013 to 2.8% in 2017. Thompson said Kentucky is one of a handful of states where higher-education budgets have not rebounded to pre-recession levels.

“We’re gonna have to have that amount of educated population in order to really participate in the kind of workforce development that’s needed to create the kind of economic development that would be needed for Kentucky,” he said.

According to data from the Georgetown University Center on Education and the Economy, nearly all jobs created in the U.S. since the 2008 recession have gone to workers with at least some post-secondary education.

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