A publication of the Kentucky Center for Public Service Journalism

Public university sector makes gains in bachelor’s degrees, graduation rates in 2017-18

The Council on Postsecondary Education heard annual performance presentations by campus presidents of the public four-year institutions at meetings last week at Southcentral Kentucky Community and Technical College in Bowling Green.

Despite deep budget cuts and a flattening enrollment, the public four-year universities increased bachelor’s degrees by 2.6 percent in the 2017-18 academic year, totaling 19,109 awards

The sector progressed on six-year graduation rates, climbing to 54.4 percent in 2017-18 and up from 51.3 percent from the previous year. Over the past five years, graduation rates have shown consistent improvement overall and for low-income and underrepresented minority populations.

“Momentum is building on our campuses around the types of innovations that equip students for success. We congratulate our public universities for meeting and exceeding many of their performance targets,” said Council President Aaron Thompson.

Other metrics show first-to-second-year retention held steady at 76.9 percent and average number of credit hours (138.8) earned at graduation also held steady.

The Council will undertake a midterm review of the strategic agenda and institutional targets next year.

At the upcoming February meeting, the Council will hear the progress report from the Kentucky Community and Technical College System.

In other business, Thompson and Commissioner of Education Wayne Lewis announced the creation of a cross-agency work group to be comprised of several senior staff from each agency. The group will meet on an ongoing basis with the goal of strengthening communications and the flow of information between the two agencies. The group will identify opportunities for greater collaboration, planning and policy development.

The work group will also provide a forum for continued discussion and evaluation around topics such as teacher quality, outreach and advising, postsecondary readiness, and transitions between high school and postsecondary programs. Recommendations from the work group may be used to inform policy and program decisions, joint projects and joint budget requests.

In other news, the Council:

• Approved a two-year contract for President Thompson with a base annual salary of $275,000. It includes the standard state benefits, a car allowance and the opportunity each year to earn incentives for meeting specified goals. The executive committee will negotiate the goals with Thompson, and the goals will be presented at the February meeting.

• Heard the results of the annual agency audit, which showed no findings.

• Approved three new academic programs, including a Bachelor of Science in Civil and Sustainability Engineering for Murray State University, a Bachelor of Arts in Law and a Master of Science in Exercise Science for Northern Kentucky University.

• Appointed members to the Nominating Committee, Budget Development Work Group and the Retreat Committee.

• Read resolutions for outstanding service for CPE employees Elaine Maher, IT project manager who is retiring, and Angela Jones, business analyst, who is resigning.

• The Council heard the following reports: Council President, Commissioner of Education, GEAR UP, communications, legislative preview, Equal Opportunities Committee and Quality Assurance (QA) Commons, a new employability initiative.

The next meeting of CPE will be held Feb. 21-22 at the Council’s offices in Frankfort.

From Council on Postsecondary Education

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