A nonprofit publication of the Kentucky Center for Public Service Journalism

Kentucky colleges and universities confer a record number of degrees despite enrollment challegens


Kentucky’s public and independent colleges and universities conferred a record 76,380 degrees and credentials during the 2018-19 year, up nearly 5% from the previous year and 39% from 10 years ago.

The number of students earning undergraduate degrees and certificates increased more than 3% over the prior year, keeping Kentucky on track to meet its attainment goal of 60% of the working-age population with a postsecondary credential by the year 2030.

“Building a more diverse and highly skilled workforce requires continuing growth in degrees and certificates at all levels and among all student demographics,” said Kentucky Council on Postsecondary Education President Aaron Thompson.

“We are also glad to see this growth in high-need workforce areas. For example, healthcare credentials increased at every level from undergraduate certificates to doctoral degrees,” he added.

The report also shows significant growth in the number of degrees and credentials earned by underrepresented minorities (URM). Comparing the academic years 2017-18 and 2018-19, undergraduate certificates earned by these students grew 9%. Additionally, associate degrees increased 6%; bachelor’s degrees climbed 5%; and master’s degrees grew 7%.

Closing educational attainment gaps is among CPE’s highest priorities, said Thompson.

“We are laser-focused on closing achievement gaps for all Kentucky students. The hard work of our campuses and our students is paying off as more of our students of color are successfully completing their degrees and certificates better prepared for life and work,” Thompson said.

While degrees and credentials continue to rise, preliminary undergraduate enrollment data for the fall 2019 semester shows a 2% decline over last year, continuing a trend that began with the 2014-15 academic year. The continuing increase in degrees and credentials, despite challenges in enrollment, points to a strong and growing commitment on Kentucky campuses to student success and college completion.

“It is not enough to enroll students. Those of us in higher education must dedicate ourselves to supporting students, guiding them and ensuring they complete their programs equipped with the skills for workforce success. That is when we can truly say we are successful,” added Thompson.

For more information about degrees and credentials, visit cpe.ky.gov/degrees.

The comprehensive CPE Data Center is located at cpe.ky.gov/data.

From Kentucky Council on Postsecondary Education


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