Tuesday November 27, 2012
Educational gains partially offset by economic drain;
employers are key to getting community back on track
Louisville must redouble its efforts to add 55,000 more college graduates by 2020 and get on track to building a more educated workforce, according to the 2012 annual report from the 55,000 Degrees initiative.
The percentage of working-age adults with college degrees declined slightly from 2010 to 2011, a downward shift after a decade of steady increases. The drop reflects a loss of almost 9,000 bachelor’s degrees at the same the city population grew and associate and graduate degrees increased.
A preliminary review of the data from the 2011 American Community Survey suggests that part of the decline was caused by college-educated people leaving Louisville for other parts of the region or country. That this was a time of low job-growth may mean college graduates left in search of jobs elsewhere. Additional research is needed to better understand the demographic shifts.
Mayor Greg Fischer, chairman of the 55,000 Degrees movement, said there is a bit of a paradox in the findings. “We need good-paying jobs to keep and attract college graduates, and we need college graduates to attract companies and their good-paying jobs,” he said. “We must focus on both fronts – adding jobs and college graduates – to reach our potential.”
Fischer called on Louisville’s employers and community groups to step up their efforts to help more people, especially working adults, earn their college degrees. Earlier this year, the mayor launched the “Count Me In” campaign to encourage employers, groups and individuals to pledge a specific number of college degrees they will help deliver by 2020.
55,000 Degrees, a movement named for its goal that began two years ago, is working to help increase the percentage of working-age college graduates to 50 percent, which requires adding 55,000 more college degrees. The annual report, which features the most recent census data, shows that the percentage dipped from 40.1 percent in 2010 to 38.9 percent in 2011.
Despite the decline in degrees, the report showed many areas of educational improvement that indicate Louisville is poised to reach the ambitious goal, including:
· College degree completions are up – The number of degree completions from area colleges and universities rose by 3 percent from 2009 to 2010, the most recent data available. Two-year associate degrees showed the biggest gain, almost 6 percent.
· More high school seniors are prepared for college and career –14% more of Jefferson County Public Schools seniors were deemed college or career ready by state tests. The gain – from 31 percent in 2010 to 45 percent in 2011 – is an impressive one-year increase and puts the system on track to reach its goal of 66 percent readiness by 2015 and 90 percent by 2020.
· More working-age adults are now enrolled in Louisville colleges and universities – In just two years, Louisville’s higher-education rolls increased 24 percent or 6,000 students. Fischer praised employers and efforts such as Degrees At Work, the employer-based support program sponsored by Greater Louisville Inc. and part of the 55,000 Degrees movement.
· Net costs for college are leveling off, even decreasing in some cases – Two-year degrees at public institutions posted the biggest decrease in net price for college, the true price of college after grants and financial aid are considered, from 2009 to 2010. Net prices held the line at private four-year institutions (not-for-profit and for-profit) and increased slightly at public four-year schools and private for-profit two-year institutions.
Fischer said “everyone must have a role” in the 55,000 Degrees movement because the stakes are high: Without a more educated workforce, Louisville can’t effectively compete against other cities for the good-paying jobs and companies it needs to support a vibrant, growing community.
“We can all make a difference, whether it’s mentoring a high school student, contributing to a scholarship fund, encouraging a co-worker to go back to college or hitting the books ourselves,” Fischer said. “I know we can do it – one degree at a time.”
For more information and to take the “Count Me In” challenge, visit www.55000degrees.org.