Kentucky has made significant progress in improving college attainment rates in recent years, but will need to sustain this growth  to reach the national average. While lawmakers have enacted several pieces of legislation to address college preparation and completion, Senate Bill 1 (2009) was the most comprehensive. Among other provisions, the measure set retention and completion rates, including for students requiring remedial education. Kentucky also has embarked on efforts to revamp developmental education, which opens the possibility to apply successful practices to college-level courses. In addition, the Council of Postsecondary Education has crafted strategies to increase overall degree production, and in particular fields such as STEM and health care. Kentucky is in a strong position to align education and workforce data to track the impact of increased completion on the state’s economy and to inform new policies and initiatives.


How does Kentucky rank compared to the national average?

  • Adults 25-64 with college degrees: 45th (30.4% vs. 38%)
  • High school graduates going directly to college: 32nd (60.9% vs. 63.3%)
  • STEM credentials awarded per 1,000 STEM employees: 5th (82.6% vs. 54.4)
  • Credentials awarded per 1,000 18- to 44-year-olds with no college degree: 17th (42.3% vs. 37.6%)
  • Workers with college degrees earning low wages: 38th (26.4% vs. 22.9%)

For more information, please see the following documents:

Kentucky Data Profile

Kentucky Data PowerPoint

In the last decade, Kentucky has substantially improved the college attainment rate for adults aged 25 to 44. Several factors have contributed to the largest percentage increase in degree completion in the nation, including the emphasis on college and career preparation, the increase in enrollment rates and the development of adult-friendly programs that focus on skill-building for the 21st century workforce.

However, several challenges still lie ahead. While Kentucky has made developmental education a focal point of the state completion agenda, a structural challenge is how to ensure more youth and adults actually graduate. Shoring up the participation side of the postsecondary equation is not enough. The state and postsecondary system should consider ways to leverage lessons learned from the remedial reform effort and translate those approaches to non-remedial settings. Also, the state should find ways to assure graduates that a well-paying job will be waiting for them when they complete. In STEM and high-tech jobs especially, the low supply of jobs might force graduates to leave.



Boosting College Completion has produced a comprehensive 50-state legislative database related to college completion and workforce development. The database will grow as we continue to collect and analyze policies.
Highlights of Kentucky’s policies:
  • Involving Developmental Education Placements — 13 KAR 2:020 (2009)
  • Transfer/Articulation from Associate’s Degree to Four-Year Programs — H.B. 160/KRS 164.2951 (2010)
  • Kentucky Unified Strategy for Reducing Remediation Rates — S.B. 1, Sec. 21 (2209)
  • Combined Work/Postsecondary Education Program — H.B. 3A – Section 19/KRS 141.381 (2009)
  • Economic Development & Postsecondary Education Centers — H.B. 468/KRS 154.24-090 (2007)

Check out the BCC database for a more complete summary of Kentucky’s policies. Click on the Menu arrow for additional options, such as printing the summary.

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Boosting College Completion has developed a policy profile for Kentucky based on an analysis of data and policies related to college completion and workforce development.

Kentucky Policy Profile

In 1997, the Kentucky Legislature, in partnership with state leaders, college presidents and business leaders, reformed higher education through House Bill 1. This legislation and the equally momentous Senate Bill 1 (2009) have created a favorable environment for comprehensive reform in the areas of college and career readiness, transfer and articulation, and workforce development.

While Kentucky has seen great improvement in its education and economic indicators since 1997, the state will need to sustain its annual attainment growth rate of 3.8% to reach the national attainment average by 2020. Between 2000 and 2009, Kentucky made the largest single percentage jump in college attainment of any state. The Unified Strategy for College and Career Readiness created through Senate Bill 1 and the Council on Postsecondary Education’s strategic plan, Stronger by Degrees, have communicated the importance of college preparation and participation for young adults. While young adults age 25 to 34 have realized a full six-point increase in degree attainment rates, much still needs to be done to increase college attainment among traditional college students and minorities.

To sustain the reform effort and to more effectively meet statewide goals, the General Assembly might consider:

  1. Assessing whether policies and strategies focused on developmental education and academic transfer have led to measurable improvements in degree attainment rates
  2. Evaluating whether the state’s colleges and universities are structured in ways to ensure that postsecondary students of all ages graduate on-time, with less debt, and complete credentials in high-demand fields
  3. Examining how the provisions in Senate Bill 1 to redesign developmental education can accelerate instruction and translate into similar strategies in college-level courses
  4. Adopting specific strategies aimed at improving college attainment rates for minorities, especially in light of data that reveal degree completion gaps have grown since 2000
  5. Aligning the production of STEM and health care credentials with job opportunities in the state.

News & Updates

Kentucky University Funding-performance Link Sought (Louisville Courier-Journal, 11/10/11)


Policy Leaders




Rep. Carl Rollins, Chair, Education Committee





Sen. Ken Winters, Chair, Education Committee


Kentucky is participating in the following national initiatives that are related to college completion and workforce development:

American Diploma Project (ADP)

Common Core Standards Initiative

Complete College America (CCA)

Complete College America Innovation Challenge Grant

PARCC Assessment Consortium

SMARTER Balanced Assessment Consortium



The following resources were produced by Boosting College Completion, state agencies and postsecondary systems.

Kentucky Data Profile

Kentucky Data PowerPoint

Kentucky Policy Profile

Realizing Kentucky’s Educational Attainment Goal: A Look in the Rear View Mirror and Down the Road Ahead (NCHEMS)

Kentucky Council on Postsecondary Education — Data Reports


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