Gov. Matt Bevin’s proposed budget for higher education puts a strong emphasis on improving the number of students prepared to join Kentucky’s workforce.
But Kentucky may already be on the case, according to a new report issued Tuesday by the Council on Postsecondary Education.
The Kentucky Completion report shows a 159 percent increase in undergraduate workforce certificates awarded between 2003 and 2013, an increase of 12,000 certificates, the report found. Overall, the number of degrees, credentials and certificates awarded grew by 59 percent in the same decade, ranking Kentucky eighth in the nation for growth.
“Clearly, this report confirms that Kentucky has a very positive story to tell,” said CPE President Bob King. “Our campuses have made remarkable progress in ramping up degree production and more closely aligning degrees and credentials to workforce needs.”
Most certificates — which are awarded for completing shorter, highly specialized training courses — come from the Kentucky Community and Technical College System, which offers workforce certificates and two-year associate degrees. The report found that the number of associate degrees awarded in Kentucky increased 52 percent, while bachelor’s degrees rose 24 percent.
Under Bevin’s proposed budget, Kentucky Lottery proceeds targeted for low-income college scholarships would be diverted to a new scholarship program for workforce development courses. Also, he proposed bonding $100 million to build new workforce education programs in partnership with private industries.
In addition, he has proposed eventually putting all state funding to public college and universities into a performance-based system that would award more money for higher production of degrees that meet the needs of Kentucky’s employers. Bevin said state funding should no longer “subsidize” students seeking liberal arts degrees.
But Bevin’s budget proposal also includes big cuts to higher education in order to help fund the state’s financially struggling pension systems: 4.5 percent between now and July 1, and another 9 percent in fiscal year 2017.
CPE officials have pointed out that Kentucky once led the nation in the growth of its graduation rates, but constant budget cuts since 2008 have slowly eroded those gains.
KCTCS President Jay Box said Bevin’s proposed budget will cut $56 million from the 16-college system on top of the $39 million lost since 2008.
“The governor’s proposed budget reductions will put Kentucky further behind and significantly impact the colleges’ ability to produce the highly skilled workforce necessary to compete for new business and industry and the expansion of existing companies,” Box said Tuesday. “Certificate programs are one of the key services we provide business and industry and are essential to training the workers needed for both our state and local economies. These cuts will require us to reevaluate all of our programs and operations and will require some tough decisions. These cuts will certainly prohibit us from growing certificate production which is a major need in growing Kentucky’s workforce.”
The report recommends a continued emphasis on adult education and closing attainment gaps between men and women, and between white and minority and at-risk students in the state.
Read the report
The full report is available at http://cpe.ky.gov/info/.