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Study to encouraging college enrollment

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It will take some time to gather the information, but one of this year’s new laws has the potential to play a significant role when it comes to helping college students decide which career to pursue.

The legislation calls on the state’s Center for Education and Workforce Statistics to compile the employment rates and earnings of those graduating from the state’s public postsecondary schools.  That agency, which was created just two years ago, will coordinate with the state’s Department of Education and the Council on Postsecondary Education (CPE).

Under the law, this information will be made available online, and it will be updated at least every three years.  High school guidance and career counselors will also be encouraged to incorporate this data in their work.

The long-term goal, of course, is to give incoming college students – or those returning to the classroom – a real-world look at what they can expect as they pursue a degree.

The numbers heading to college are certainly growing.  Our public four-year universities, for example, topped another enrollment record last fall at 128,000 students, according to a CPE report from late March.  That’s up 9 percent over the past decade.

Kentucky’s 20 private, non-profit colleges, meanwhile, saw enrollment hold steady at about 36,000 students, a figure that nonetheless is almost 42 percent higher than in 2003.

At the same time, the number of students attending the Kentucky Community and Technical College System (KCTCS) was down nearly 5 percent last fall when compared to 2012.  Officials say this is part of a national trend; as the economy improves, more students return to the workplace.

While the Center for Education and Workforce Statistics readies for the new report the General Assembly just requested, it released another in February that covers similar ground, but at a more local level.

These profiles offer a “big picture” look at the most current economic, social, and employment information available.

Statewide, it shows that the percentage of adults with a bachelor’s degree has nearly doubled since 1980, although we trail the national average.  In 2011-12, Kentucky saw about 16,000 people get their four-year degree, with about one-fourth coming from the fields of science, technology, engineering and math.

In terms of employment, nearly 40 percent of our workforce has jobs in the health or education services fields, and one-fifth work for our utilities or in sectors tied to trade and transportation.  Much of the remainder is in government, manufacturing and construction.

In many ways, the budget that the General Assembly just approved moves our postsecondary schools forward.  It authorizes hundreds of millions of dollars in new or improved facilities, giving the schools room to grow; and it sets aside a little more money for our lottery-based financial-aid programs while protecting the KEES scholarships that the lottery also funds for the high school students who earn them.

Our long-term goal has to be finding a way to make it easier financially to pursue a college education.  These students – more than a quarter of a million of them across the commonwealth – are the ones who will lead Kentucky forward in the years ahead.  The more we can invest in them, the more it will pay off down the road.

If you have any thoughts on this, I would like to know.  You can write to me at Room 366B, Capitol Annex, 702 Capitol Avenue, Frankfort KY 40601; or you can email me at Rick.Rand@lrc.ky.gov.  To leave a message for me or for any legislator, call toll-free at 800-372-7181. For those with a hearing impairment, the number is 800-896-0305.

I hope to hear from you soon.

 

Rick Rand, D-Bedford, represents the 47th House District in the Kentucky General Assembly. His address is Room 366B, Capitol Annex, 702 Capitol Avenue, Frankfort, KY 40601; or leave a message at (800) 372-7181 or (800) 896-0305.