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Louisville Making Progress Toward Goal of 55,000 More College Degrees

Monday September 12, 2011

Despite Gain, City Not on Track to Reach Goal by 2020

Louisville is making significant progress toward the community’s goal of adding 55,000 college degrees by 2020 – gaining 7,000 more college graduates in a one-year period and gaining ground on competitor cities, according to a report and online education data dashboard released today by Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer and the non-profit group created to tackle the challenge.

“We are united with one common agenda: to make Louisville a well-educated city where lifelong learning is part of everyday life and is ingrained into our DNA,” Fischer said.

The second annual report by 55,000 Degrees – a group led by university presidents, educators, business and civic leaders – shows Louisville is progressing toward 40,000 new bachelor’s degrees and 15,000 associates/technical degrees. The effort began two years ago with the creation of the Mayor’s Education Roundtable and was formalized last October with the creation of the non-profit group

Despite the gain, Louisville will have to increase the rate of progress to meet the goal of 55,000 more college degrees, Fischer said. The report’s findings also include:

· Over the past 10 years, Louisville posted the second-largest increase in working-age adults with college degrees among 15 competitor cities;

· The number of working-age adults with college degrees increased by about 7,000 from 2008 to 2009 in Louisville — the most recent year figures are available;

· The number of degrees awarded locally from 2008 to 2009 has gone up substantially — a 14 percent jump in 2-year degrees and a 7 percent rise in 4-year degrees; and

· Partly in response to a difficult job market, more working age adults with some college are back in school – a 20 percent increase in two years.

55,000 Degrees is focusing on several specific challenges to boost the numbers higher toward the ultimate goal, said Mary Gwen Wheeler, interim executive director of 55,000 Degrees. The areas include:

Better preparation for college – Far too many college freshmen arrive unprepared academically for their coursework. But schools and universities alike are rallying to address the shortcoming, focusing on both preparation and remediation.

Keeping students in college and luring back college dropouts – More than 90,000 working-age adults in Louisville have some college credits, but have not completed their degrees. Partners in 55,000 Degrees are working to keep more college students in school and to convince those with 60 or more credit hours to go back to school.

Adding African-American students – Louisville ranks last among our competitor cities in the percentage of African-Americans with college degrees. Leaders have created a focused effort called 15K to make sure African-Americans account for at least 15,000 of the 55,000 degree goal.

Fischer said the community will have to work together to overcome the challenges and meet the goal. “When people ask me about 55,000 Degrees, they often say, ‘Wow, that’s a huge number,’” he said. “And I say the way we will reach it is simple: one degree at a time.”

For more information about 55,000 Degrees, go to www.55000degrees.org.