KY Community College Students Need More Help

Increase Support for KY’s Community College Students

Crossing the Finish Line: Overcoming Barriers to Community College Degree and Credential Attainment in Kentucky

Click here to download a pdf of the full report.

New Report Calls for More State Support to Increase Community College Completion

Need-based financial aid, student supports and developmental education strategies are vital to strengthening Kentucky’s workforce and economy

With Kentucky working to increase college graduation rates, a new report by the Kentucky Center for Economic Policy (KCEP) recommends that the state invest more in support strategies that can help disadvantaged Kentucky adults and other students obtain the degrees and credentials that are necessary for family well-being and economic growth.

The report, “Crossing the Finish Line: Overcoming the Barriers to Community College Degree and Credential Attainment in Kentucky,” calls on the state to focus especially on community colleges, which will play an increasingly vital role in giving students the education they need for decent employment and a start on a career path.

“The success of community college students is critical to the state’s economic future,” said KCEP Research and Policy Associate Ashley Spalding, the report’s author. “But financial responsibilities, trouble advancing through developmental education, and a need for more student and family supports can prevent these students from graduating.”

Kentucky is working to increase the state’s number of college graduates. Currently, 32 percent of adults have a college degree; the goal is 43 percent, which means the state must add 66,825 degree-holders over the next eight years. Many of these degrees will be earned at community colleges, which tend to be the most affordable option for students and provide the minimum postsecondary degree or credential needed to obtain employment at decent wages. More than half of Kentucky undergraduates attending public institutions enroll in community colleges.

But as noted in the report, many Kentucky community college students leave school due to financial challenges—particularly with rising tuition and inadequate need-based state financial aid. Many other students enter with low skills and get stuck in developmental education courses, never completing a credential or degree. Other barriers to completion include the lack of supports including intensive academic advising and assistance with costs like childcare.

The report’s recommendations include:

  • Fully funding the College Access Program, which is the only state need-based financial aid grant program that can be used at community colleges.
  • Expanding the community college system’s developmental education redesign and contextualized learning efforts, which provide innovative approaches to learning and promote students’ success.
  • Increasing student supports, such as help with childcare, transportation and emergency financial challenges, and providing more counseling.

“Kentucky is making good progress in some of these areas—like developmental education reform—but more support of those strategies is needed,” said Spalding. “And the state is clearly falling short in areas like investing in need-based financial aid. Last year 67 percent of eligible students were denied aid from Kentucky’s need-based College Access Program due to limited funds.”

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The Kentucky Center for Economic Policy is a non-profit, non-partisan initiative that conducts research, analysis and education on important policy issues facing the Commonwealth. Launched in 2011, the Center is a project of the Mountain Association for Community Economic Development (MACED). 

Crossing the Finish Line.pdf

Crossing the Finish Line: Overcoming Barriers to Community College Degree and Credential Attainment in Kentucky

With Kentucky working to increase college graduation rates, the state should invest more in support strategies that can help disadvantaged Kentucky adults and other students obtain the degrees and credentials that are necessary for family well-being and economic growth.

Crossing the Finish Line

Op-Ed: Kentucky Among 10 States with Fastest-Growing Income Inequality

Published in the Richmond Register.

Income gaps widened more in Kentucky than in all but eight other states between the late 1990s and the mid-2000s – and more than all but three other states from the late 1970s to the mid-2000s – according to a study released today by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities and the Economic Policy Institute.

Whether you’re a corporate executive or a laborer, hard work should pay off. Instead, we’re seeing a Kentucky where the richest households do well while low- and middle-income Kentuckians struggle to maintain their standard of living. This deepening economic divide is harmful to our economy and to our political system.

The report, Pulling Apart: A State-by-State Analysis of Income Trends, finds declining incomes for low- and moderate-income Kentuckians and substantial long-term income growth for high earners.

  • While the average income of the poorest fifth of Kentucky households declined 11.8 percent between the late 1970s and mid-2000s – the worst decline seen in any state – the average income of the richest fifth of Kentucky households grew 61.7 percent over that period.
  • In the late 1990s, the average income of the richest fifth of Kentucky households was 7.4 times more than the average income of the poorest fifth, but by the mid-2000s that ratio had grown to 9.1.
  • From the late 1990s to the mid-2000s, the incomes of the poorest fifth of Kentucky households declined by 17.2 percent, and the middle fifth declined by 6.2 percent, while the richest fifth of Kentucky households maintained their average income.

Income inequality is rising in Kentucky for a range of reasons, with the growing gap in wages playing a major role. Widening wage inequality is due to such factors as long periods of high unemployment, a decline in better-paying manufacturing jobs due to trade and other policies, and a minimum wage that has not kept up with price increases.

While many of the policies driving income inequality are at the federal level, Kentucky policymakers can do more to address the disparity between the rich and the poor. The state needs to invest more in low-income workers and families and enact reforms that make our tax system fairer.

The benefits of economic growth have gone disproportionately to high earners. State tax policies that shift tax responsibility away from those most able to pay will worsen our already growing inequality, while proposals like an earned income tax credit and a more progressive income tax can help mitigate the problem.

The joint CBPP/EPI report, as well as a press release and state fact sheets, are available here.

Jason Bailey is director of the Kentucky Center for Economic Policy based in Berea.

Kentucky Job Growth Remains Slow and Jobs Deficit Substantial

Between the start of the recession and February 2010, Kentucky lost 118,200 jobs. After several years of job growth, that gap has been trimmed to 35,100. However, ongoing growth in the working age population over those years means that the state’s actual jobs deficit has only partially declined. The gap between Kentucky jobs and the number of jobs the state needs to regain its pre-recession unemployment rate stands at 98,300 at the end of October.

Clearly, the pace of job growth is still too slow. Kentucky needs to add about 3,500 jobs a month for three straight years to get back to pre-recession levels. Instead, the state has added on average 1,700 new jobs a month over the last three months and 1,833 a month over the last six months.

Addressing this continued slow job growth through short-term fiscal measures should be a major focus of the budget discussion in Washington. Some ideas are outlined here.

 Deficit 2

Source: Economic Policy Institute analysis of Bureau of Labor Statistics data.

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Fact Sheet: College Affordability in Kentucky

Progress in higher education is essential to building a strong economy, an informed citizenry, and a higher quality of life. However, the cost of higher education is a growing challenge for Kentucky families. This fact sheet highlights the key information on higher education affordability in the Commonwealth.

College Affordability Fact Sheet