Kentucky Council on Postsecondary Education

President’s Message: COVID-19 adjusted our course, but not our destination

September 29, 2020

Aaron Thompson

Dear Friends,

The North Star was a navigational guide for ancient sailors due to its fixed position in the sky. In the Antebellum south, escaped slaves, under cover of darkness, used the North Star to chart a course to freedom.

Today, the North Star has come to symbolize any guiding principle or purpose. During prosperity or adversity, it is a steadfast point on which we set our sights.

For the Council on Postsecondary Education, our North Star is the 60 by 30 goal – for 60% of Kentuckians to have a postsecondary credential by the year 2030. As Washington D.C., Boston and Silicon Valley have shown, achieving this goal would strengthen our workforce, grow our economy, improve our health and dramatically increase our quality of life.

Kentucky is making progress toward the goal. Our educational attainment has increased 20 percentage points since 2008, mainly due to the increase in short-term credentials. Currently, we stand at 49.1%, a few points shy of the national average of 51.3%.

Kentucky's rates of postsecondary enrollment and degree production are markers that help us determine whether to make adjustments or stay the course. Preliminary fall undergraduate enrollment is down 0.4% at public universities and 8.6% at KCTCS, not ideal, but better than expected given the challenges of COVID-19.

This enrollment dip, especially at KCTCS, raises concerns about college access for our neediest students. The pandemic has underscored how unreliable internet access and housing and food insecurity are jeopardizing educational attainment for thousands of Kentuckians.

I am committed to improving access and success for our most vulnerable students. CPE is leading a systemwide charge to innovate instruction and support. We are redoubling our efforts to promote diversity, equity and inclusion, so these innovations benefit us all.

The economic and emotional toll of COVID-19 may have adjusted our course, but not our destination. The strategies we'll use to overcome this challenge are the same ones that ultimately will enable us to reach our 60x30 goal.

Thompson signature
Aaron Thompson, Ph.D.

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Last Updated: 7/26/2021