Kentucky: Council on Postsecondary Education

Council on Postsecondary Education
Study shows majority of students entering Kentucky colleges are underprepared

Press Release Date:  Friday, December 16, 2005  
Contact Information:  Sue Patrick
Dianne Bazell
Phone: 502-573-1555 ext. 254

(FRANKFORT, Ky) A study released by the Council on Postsecondary Education found that 54 percent of students entering a public Kentucky postsecondary institution in 2002 were underprepared for college level mathematics, reading and/or English. This rate was lower for students who were recent graduates of a Kentucky high school at 48 percent. The highest percentage of lack of preparation was in the area of mathematics.

In fall 2001, Kentucky instituted a placement policy mandating remedial coursework or other extra assistance for all students entering undergraduate programs at public institutions with a score of 17 or below on ACT subject exams in math, English or reading. This study provides a first look at the outcomes of this new policy.

The report, entitled Underprepared Students in Kentucky: A First Look at the 2001 Mandatory Placement Policy, looked at 26,646 students who entered Kentucky’s public two- and four-year institutions in the fall of 2002 and followed them through their first two years of study. It examined the student’s remedial needs, remedial course-taking and retention to the second year.

Data analysis showed that of all students entering Kentucky public colleges and universities in 2002, 22 percent were underprepared in one subject, 17 percent in two subjects, and 15 percent in all three subjects. Students who came to college underprepared in one or more subjects were less likely to return to the same institution for their second year. Systemwide, 73 percent of prepared students came back for a second year, while 53 percent of those who were underprepared in at least one subject returned.

The study also found underprepared students were twice as likely to drop out of college altogether when compared to prepared students (39 percent and 20 percent, respectively).

 “This study underlines the importance of the state’s efforts to institute a rigorous high school curriculum in Kentucky,” said Tom Layzell, president of the Council on Postsecondary Education. “It is critical that we continue to support and partner with our K-12 education system to increase the number of Kentucky students prepared for postsecondary education.”

In November 2004, the Council instituted the statewide public postsecondary placement policy in English and mathematics. The policy guarantees entering students placement into credit-bearing English and mathematics courses if they are able to demonstrate readiness based on their ACT or SAT score. The policy details what skills are necessary for students to be successful in college-level English and mathematics and clarifies expectations of students entering these courses. 

The Council coordinates several initiatives focused on improving preparation for postsecondary education. For more information on Council initiatives focused on preparation for postsecondary education, visit

To download a full copy of Underprepared Students in Kentucky: A First Look at the 2001 Mandatory Placement Policy, please visit



Kentucky's postsecondary education system encompasses eight public institutions and the Kentucky Community and Technical College System, numerous independent institutions and Kentucky Adult Education. The system represents 231,612 students, 538,866 Kentucky alumni and 294,896 GED recipients. When Kentuckians earn postsecondary degrees, their skills improve and their wages go up; they are more likely to lead healthy lives and be engaged in their communities; and they build better futures for themselves and their families.


Last Updated 12/16/2005