Kentucky Council on Postsecondary Education

CPE unveils state plan to meet 60x2030 educational attainment goal

February 09, 2022

Line of graduates holding diplomas

New Higher Education Matters campaign kicks off to increase college-going

Strategic Agenda cover art

The Kentucky Council on Postsecondary Education unveiled the 2022-2030 state plan for higher education on Wednesday. Higher Education Matters: A Statewide Strategic Agenda for Kentucky Postsecondary Education serves as a blueprint to meet Kentucky’s educational attainment goal—to raise the percentage of Kentuckians with a postsecondary degree or certificate to 60% by the year 2030.

Over the last decade, Kentucky has improved educational attainment at a rapid pace, increasing from 30.4% to the current level of 49.4%, just shy of the national average. The new plan provides a roadmap to steer the state to the 60% goal.

“This agenda advances a bold plan for building a competitive workforce through a strong postsecondary education system so Kentuckians can thrive professionally and personally and meet the evolving needs of the economy,” said CPE President Aaron Thompson.

“Achieving our educational attainment goal is critical to providing opportunity for more Kentuckians, accelerating job creation and growing the economy,” he added.

The plan was released in conjunction with Thompson’s State of Higher Education address. Key leaders joined for a panel discussion, including Murray State University President Robert Jackson; Kentucky Education Commissioner Jason E. Glass; Kentucky Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Ashli Watts; and Aliya Cannon, Northern Kentucky University’s student body president.

Achieving our educational attainment goal is critical to providing opportunity for more Kentuckians, accelerating job creation and growing the economy. - CPE President Aaron Thompson

The agenda identifies five strategic priorities for higher education that will guide innovation and improvement through 2030, with an additional one -- equity -- as a cross-cutting priority. The other priorities are affordability, transitions, success, talent and value.

Public colleges and universities will develop campus-level strategies that align to the objectives included in each priority area. All strategies will be reviewed and revised every three years, and CPE and campuses will set numeric targets for key performance indicators to monitor progress. The targets will also be updated on a three-year cycle.

Creating equitable education opportunities for Kentucky’s low-income students and underrepresented minorities (URM) is a critical focus of the agenda. While degree production for minoritized students has increased 37% since 2016, outpacing overall credential growth, educational attainment of underrepresented minority Kentuckians still trails that of their white counterparts by a considerable margin.

To address this challenge, CPE’s comprehensive diversity, equity and inclusion policy requires institutions to increase enrollment, retention and completion for URM and low-income students and improve cultural competence on campus. Additionally, the state’s performance funding model places a premium on degrees awarded to underrepresented and low-income students.

Higher Education Matters logo

For the value priority, Thompson announced the launch of a statewide public awareness campaign, also titled Higher Education Matters. The goal is to elevate the public’s understanding that postsecondary education is key to greater opportunity and economic growth.

The campaign will promote college-going to counteract an in-state college-going rate that has been steadily declining. Also, fewer nontraditional adult students are enrolling for the first time or returning to finish a credential.

CPE is partnering with the state’s public colleges and universities on the campaign, which runs through June 30.

Thompson said there are a lot of stories in the media that undercut higher education’s value, but the data prove that college credentials produce a positive return on investment for Kentuckians and the state.

Over a lifetime, college graduates with a bachelor’s degree in Kentucky can expect to earn $1 million more than high school graduates. During the pandemic, they were much less likely to be unemployed or have their hours reduced.

Because they earn higher salaries, college graduates spend more money and pay more taxes. They are much less likely to be unemployed and on public assistance.

Jackson, who also serves as the convener of the conference of presidents, said, "We are very pleased with the new Higher Education Matters Strategic Plan as we advance our colleges and universities, economic and workforce development and provide new and enhanced opportunities for our students,” said Jackson.

“We have a tremendous responsibility in Kentucky to make a significant and lasting difference in the lives of our citizens. I am very excited about our Commonwealth’s future and the many opportunities as we travel the road ahead," he added.

Partner Quotes

Kentucky Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Ashli Watts

“The number one issue facing Kentucky’s business community and impairing our growth is workforce development. We are seeing so many investments bringing jobs of the future to the Commonwealth and we must be prepared to meet those needs. Postsecondary education is a crucial part of that success. We applaud the Council on Postsecondary Education on this strategic vision and look forward to working together to build a strong, sustainable and equitable economy through these goals.”

Kentucky Community and Technical College System President Paul Czarapata

“We strongly support CPE’s strategic agenda and ad campaign to help reinforce the importance and value of education beyond high school. College doesn’t always mean a bachelor’s degree, and we offer a variety of ways for Kentuckians to receive the education and training they need for a good career. It is important to our state’s economy and quality of life that the majority of Kentuckians obtain some postsecondary education…no matter the path.”

The Prichard Committee President and CEO Brigitte Blom

“Increasing post-high school success, with a solid commitment to increasing college-going and attainment, is critical for the future strength of the Commonwealth. We are pleased to support the Council’s strategic plan and look forward to fruitful partnerships which help Kentucky realize a Big Bold Future for an increasing number of Kentuckians.”

Kentucky Commissioner of Education Jason E. Glass

“The Kentucky Department of Education fully supports the Council on Postsecondary Education’s emphasis on how higher education and the K-12 public system can work together to increase the number of students who have access to advanced coursework and make the transition to higher education easier. We know that all our graduates will need some type of education or training beyond graduation. I am pleased to see the importance this eight-year strategic agenda places on our systems working together to benefit Kentucky’s students, who are our future workforce.”

Last Updated: 2/9/2022