The number of people getting credentials from Kentucky colleges and universities surged in 2010-11, rising 11 percent at the state's public and independent institutions to an all-time high of 62,681 graduates.
Diplomas and certificates that target specific job areas are driving the growth more than associate and baccalaureate degrees, according to numbers released Monday by Kentucky's Council on Postsecondary Education.
The popularity of diplomas and certificates is felt not just at the Kentucky Community and Technical College System, but at several of the public universities that have begun to offer them in such fields as paralegal studies.
The number of diplomas at Kentucky's public and independent institutions jumped from 1,938 in 2009-10 to 2,558 in 2010-11 — a 32 percent increase. The number of certificates went from 16,138 to 18,699 in 2010-11 — a 15.9 percent increase. During the past 10 years, the number of certificates has increased 836.4 percent.
A certificate is tailored toward a specific career designation and takes less time than an associate's degree to complete. At KCTCS, the most popular certificate programs include office technology and records, medical coding and certified nursing assistant.
While certificates generally lead graduates directly into the work force, they can be used as building blocks for associate and bachelor's degrees, said Bob King, president of the Council on Postsecondary Education.
He also said that higher numbers of associate and bachelor's degree recipients showed that retention efforts at colleges and universities, such as the University of Kentucky's "War on Attrition," are paying off.
Kentucky has long been on a campaign to increase the number of bachelor's and associate degree holders in the state. They are considered a measure of economic vitality. From 2009-10 to 2010-11, the number of bachelor's degrees increased from 20,120 to 21,335, or 6 percent; the number of associate degrees increased from 9,184 to 10,211, or 11 percent.