Colleges and universities in the bluegrass state are seeing an overall increase in the number of graduating students. According to new data from the Kentucky Council on Postsecondary Education, undergraduate degrees and credentials totaled more than 59,000 in the 2016-17 school year, a seven percent increase over the prior year. CPE President Bob King says the highest growth came from short-term certificates awarded by the Community and Technical College System.
"It tells us, I think, is that the market out there for jobs is driving that credential production. In other words, the kinds of jobs out there are requiring some education beyond high school," he said.
The state is seeing an increase in the number of high-demand workforce certificates in fields such as information technology, industrial mechanics, and welding. Graduation and retention rates, as a whole, continue to improve. However, the state is still under-performing when it comes to graduating low-income and minority students.
King said the state’s new Work-Ready Scholarships make it possible for students to earn certificates that can lead to good-paying jobs for essentially free.
"If you're an adult and have not yet earned an associate degree, you can come back and earn a certificate in one of these high need areas at no cost."
The state is seeing an increase in all degree levels, though certificates have seen the largest jump. The increase comes as state funding per full-time student has declined by 35 percent since the start of the recession in 2008.