In spite of the pandemic, the Kentucky Council on Postsecondary Education reports that the number of credentials awarded in the commonwealth remained steady this past school year, and that the state was still on track to meet its higher education goals.

According to a recent CPE report brief about the number of degrees and credentials awarded in Kentucky in the 2020-21 academic year, credential attainment decreased by .2%, the first decline since 2014-15. Overall, however, since the 2015-16 school year, credential attainment is still up 23.5%.

The report went on to say that bachelor’s degrees were down by 2.2% in the 2020-21 school year; that the Kentucky Community & Technical College Systems increased credential production by .4%, with an increase specifically in associate degrees by 3.8%; graduate degrees were down by .5%; and credentials awarded to in-state students were up 1.2%.

The slight dip in credentials earned overall is directly attributed to the pandemic, the report states.

“It is worth noting that the recent coronavirus pandemic had a considerable negative impact on enrollment and degree production at postsecondary institutions around the country, and Kentucky was not exempt from this trend,” the report read.

Slight decrease withstanding, these results appear promising to CPE President Aaron Thompson, who said they are the result of campuses doubling down on efforts to assist students in completing their degrees or credentials during a pandemic.

“The tremendous challenges of the last year and a half have not knocked us off track from our ambitious goals for Kentucky, and that’s really a tribute to the resiliency of Kentucky’s campuses and students,” Thompson said. “It’s an encouraging sign for the future of Kentucky’s workforce as we continue to grapple with, and recover from, the economic effects of the pandemic.”

More good news illuminated in the report is that degrees earned by underrepresented minority students is continuing to rise. From the 2019-20 school year to 2020-21, degrees awarded to those students increased by 2.3% overall. This was especially evident within the KCTCS schools, where student credentials increased by 4.3% over the previous year and 46.1% since the 2015-16 school year.

The CPE reports that its annual goal for underrepresented minority students who earn bachelor’s degrees is 2,938 annually. This past school year, 3,322 students within that group earned a bachelor’s degree.

Thompson said those are “staggering numbers by any measure,” especially when compared to other states.

“We are on our way toward closing the educational gaps that are hindering Kentucky’s workforce from reaching its full potential,” he said.

The brief report also tracks CPE’s goal of having at least 60% of working-age Kentuckians earning postsecondary credentials by the year 2030. Part of those efforts have been to provide more opportunities and supports for adult learners.

To help further that goal, the CPE has been focused on helping nontraditional students either complete unfinished degrees or certificate programs, or begin anew.

Project Graduate, an initiative to recruit previous students with a high number of college credit hours to come back to school and complete their bachelor’s degrees, is one such program to help with that goal that was restarted a few years ago. Since its inception about a decade ago, more than 2,500 adults have completed their college degrees.

To view the full report brief, visit http://cpe.ky.gov/data/reports/2021degreesreport.pdf.

Bobbie Hayse, bhayse@messenger-inquirer.com, 270-691-7315

Bobbie Hayse, bhayse@messenger-inquirer.com, 270-691-7315

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