Good news for state’s future prosperity

Last updated: July 11. 2014 2:53PM - 456 Views

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A preliminary report released by Kentucky’s Council on Postsecondary Education estimates college degrees and advanced education credentials earned at public and private colleges and universities are on the rise.

This is good news for the state, suggesting an increased understanding by Kentuckians of the importance of higher education not only for themselves, but for our communities, too.

The report released by the council June 20 estimates nearly 63,150 degrees and certifications were conferred at the close of the 2013-14 academic year. This total represents an increase of 1.2 percent over the prior academic year and a 60 percent increase over the past 10 years.

Data collected illustrated growth across a wide range of levels. Undergraduate certifications, baccalaureate and doctoral level degrees all showed one-year increases ranging from 2 to 10 percent. Master’s degree levels declined, and fairly significantly, at 6.8 percent from the prior academic year.

A 10-year comparison of the data really shows the gains we’ve made in better educating ourselves. The report reveals a gain of 204 percent in undergraduate certificates, 56 percent gain in associate degrees, 30 percent gains in bachelor’s degrees, 46.5 percent growth in professional-practice doctoral degrees, and 10 percent increase in research doctorates.

Research shows that on average a college educated individual will earn almost $1 million more in their lifetime than will their peer who obtained only a high school diploma.

According to data released by the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, associate degree holders earned 21 percent more, and bachelor’s degree holders earned 56 percent more than high school graduates over the past four decades.

Even with the rising cost of tuition and fees, and the weight of student loan debt many college graduates carry with them into the workforce, figures like these underscore the importance of a college education on the earning potential of a high school graduate.

While the return on the college investment is high for the individual degree holder, so, too, is the reward for the state when its collective workforce is more highly educated.

For too long, Kentucky has lagged the majority of states across the nation. In 2010, census data revealed only 30 percent of Kentucky’s 25-64 year olds held two- or four-year college degrees. The national average that year was 38.3 percent.

Kentucky’s economic horizon will be far brighter — and its appeal to potential new industries and employers more attractive — as this percentage grows. This most recent report by the CPE shows signs that we’re moving in the right direction.

— The News-Enterprise, Elizabethtown

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