Kentucky catching up with college degrees but has more work ahead, leaders say

09/07/2011 07:05 PM

FRANKFORT — No state added to its ranks of college educated residents faster than Kentucky over the last decade as education reforms took hold, according to a new national progress report.

And while Kentucky leaders and education officials celebrated the progress at a Capitol press conference Wednesday, each said the state has much more work ahead.

Kentucky has made gains with working-age people getting college degrees from two and four year colleges and universities. But overall, it only gets Kentucky closer to the middle of pack of states — not to the top.

Some highlights of the National Center for Higher Education Management Systems report that looked at progress between 2000 and 2009:

  • Kentucky increased college degrees among adults 25-64 by 24.4% — best in the nation. But its overall percentage of 30.5% of those people with college degrees ranks 45th in the country, up from 47th in 2000.
  • The six-year graduation rates at four-year universities increased by 21.7% — best in the nation. Its overall percentage of 47.8% ranks 35th in the country, up from 44th in 2000.
  • The three-year graduation rate at two-year colleges increased by 42.7% — third best in the nation. Kentucky’s overall percentage of 30.5% now ranks 16th in the country, up from 38th in 2000.

Aims C. McGuinness Jr., senior associate with the national consulting group that conducted the report, said Kentucky has proven itself a leader in education advances starting with the Kentucky Education Reform Act in 1990 continuing with the 1997 higher education reform act and through new student standards and testing the legislature approved in 2009.

And many former and current Kentucky leaders echoed that:

You can download the full report here: NCHEMSRealizingKysCollegeAttainmentGoal.pdf

On a political note, David Williams, the state Senate president and Republican candidate for governor, sat through the remarks by Democratic Gov. Steve Beshear. But Beshear didn’t stick around to hear Williams. Beshear left to attend a ribbon cutting in Northern Kentucky.

Both men used their remarks to burnish their education credentials with Beshear talking about how he argued to maintain state education funding in the face of budget cuts. And Williams touted his work to support Senate Bill 1 in 2009.

- Ryan Alessi with video produced by Kyle Lizenby

About Ryan Alessi

Ryan Alessi joined cn|2 in May 2010 as senior managing editor and host of Pure Politics. He is now pursuing an advanced degree in non-fiction writing from Murray State University and is a regular contributor to Pure Politics. Ryan has covered politics for more than 14 years, including seven years as a reporter for the Lexington Herald-Leader. Ryan can be reached at purepolitics@twcable.com or @mycn2 on Twitter.

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