Our partners around Louisville are already working to improve education attainment. Recognizing that achieving the goal requires adding at least 40,000 more bachelor’s degrees and 15,000 more associate degrees, we commit to bring about the following objectives (all text and graphs taken from 2013 Progress Report):
New National “Cohort” Graduation Rate Will Compare Progress
Kentucky will be able to compare its graduation rate to the nation’s for the first time this year. In 2013, all Kentucky public school districts began using a new, more accurate method to calculate high school graduation rates which tracks individual students from 9th grade to high school graduation.
Graduating from high school is a key milestone on the path to college. The JCPS class of 2013 reached a 77 percent cohort graduation rate – nine percentage points behind the state average. Most JCPS high schools exceeded an 80 percent graduation rate, with eight out of 21 schools surpassing the state average of 86 percent.
High School Graduate Numbers Rising But College-Going Rates Declining
The good news: Over the past six years, the annual number of JCPS graduates increased 18 percent as a result of improved drop-out prevention and other programs to help “at-risk” students cross the finish line. The higher numbers contributed to a 7 percent increase in the number of JCPS graduates enrolling in college — totaling 241 more students in 2012.
The bad news: The college-going rate of JCPS graduates declined from 68 percent to 61 percent over this same time period (2007-2012). The steady decline can be explained in part by an increasing number of high school graduates, including some who do not have college in their sights.
College-Finishing as Important as College-Going
The success of local high school graduates in completing a college degree within six years is an indicator of the “college-finishing” culture in public schools. From the JCPS class of 2007, 79 percent eventually enrolled in college by 2013, and 21 percent never attended. By 2013, 31 percent of students completed an associate degree or higher; 15 percent were still enrolled in college; and 33 percent stopped-out (were no longer enrolled). College-finishing is as important as college-going, and the strategies to create a college-finishing culture are dependent on both the academic readiness and the “power skills” students develop in high school and expand in college.
Louisville’s Working-age Adults are Prime Candidates for College Degrees
In Louisville, there are nearly 240,000 working-age adults without a college degree. The vast majority are employed and about 40 percent have earned some college credit. Through Degrees At Work, the business community encourages and supports adult workers to earn college degrees. In turn, working adults gain education and skills that strengthen Louisville’s workforce.
Adult Enrollment Growth Outpaces the Nation
Louisville far exceeds the national pace for enrollment growth, particularly among adult students. From 2000 to 2010, the number of adult students increased 42 percent nationally, while Louisville-area colleges and universities saw a 67 percent increase. The majority of working-age adults enroll at two-year institutions.
Locally, adult students complete associate and bachelor’s degrees at higher rates than traditional-age students. While the number of adult students is rising, only 28,000 of an estimated 240,000 currently pursue degrees.
In light of higher success rates for adult students and the untapped pool of potential college graduates, additional recruiting strategies for working-age adults are needed.
College/Career Readiness up Again
JCPS seniors made substantial gains from 2012 to 2013 in readiness for college-level work. At the current pace, JCPS is on track to meet the district goal set by the Kentucky Department of Education (KDE) of two-thirds of graduating seniors being college/career ready by 2015. JCPS is also on track to reach its 55,000 Degrees commitment that 90 percent of all graduates are college/career ready by 2020.
The tougher academic standards of the Common Core curriculum raised the bar on the definition of college/career ready, and JCPS improved readiness from 31 percent to 51 percent since 2010. While readiness gaps between students of color and whites decreased 5 percent this year, the disparity remains a major challenge for improvement by the school district and community.
College/Career Ready in 2013:
- 51% of JCPS students, up from 45% in 2012
- 33% of African-American students, up from 25%
- 50% of Hispanic/Latino students, up from 37%
- 81% of JCPS high schools improved readiness scores
- 8 out of 21 schools gained 10 points or more
- The readiness gap between students of color and
- white students closed from 33% to 28%
Higher ACT Scores Increase College Options
Scores on the ACT significantly influence a student’s college choices and scholarship opportunities. The minimum ACT Composite score required at public four-year universities in Kentucky ranges from 18 to 23 (out of a possible 36). College-bound students scoring below 18 often begin at a community college and need to complete remedial coursework before earning college credits.
The JCPS class of 2013 had an average ACT score of 18.8, which means a substantial percentage of students were not ready for college without some remediation. The average ACT score for students in Archdiocesan high schools was 23.8 in 201320. This high ACT average translates to increased college options and more scholarships for Archdiocesan graduates.
Significant disparities exist across races and ethnic groups in JCPS. Raising ACT scores among students of color is critical: the average score for African-American and Hispanic/Latino students is currently at or below minimum requirements to attend public four-year institutions in Kentucky.
Louisville Transforming How Students Catch-up for College Work
Students who begin college unprepared for college-level work in one or more subjects often
enroll in remedial classes. These courses do not provide college credits but still cost students time and money. Nationally, 70 percent of community college students take at least one remedial course22. In Kentucky, only 11 percent of students taking remedial classes at community colleges earn an associate degree in three years34. Over the past five years, local public two-year colleges, Jefferson Community and Techical College and Ivy Tech Community College Southern Indiana, saw a marked increase in first-time students needing remediation.
PILOTING NEW STRATEGIES: JCTC and Ivy Tech are increasing the number of students streamlined into credit-bearing courses to move their education forward, as opposed to remedial courses that fill learning gaps. New approaches include co-enrolling students in remedial and credit-bearing courses in the same semester, adding learning lab support to credit-bearing classes for those who need it and accelerating learning through “bootcamp” models for students close to meeting college-ready benchmarks on placement exams.
Net Price of College Rises Across the Board
Too many people look at tuition rates and quickly decide they cannot afford a college education. Prospective students and families need to be informed how the “net price” of college is much less than the “sticker price” once financial aid, scholarships, work-study grants and other discounts are applied.
National and local statistics show the return on investment in college pays off in the long run. However, the annual rate of increase in college costs, in some cases due to declining state funding which leads to rising tuition, is cause for concern. Over the past two years, net price increased by an average of 2 percent to 10 percent per year, depending on institution type.
More Students Filing FAFSA
The FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) is a gateway to college affordability, particularly for low-income students. Over the past six years, the Louisville community increased hands-on support to complete these forms, and the improvements are dramatic.
FAFSA Since 2007:
- 59% increase in number of FAFSAs filed in Louisville
- 26% increase in FAFSAs filed from high school seniors
- 104% increase in low-income students filing FAFSA
The increase in the number of low-income FAFSA filers is a positive indicator of college access; however, higher numbers also put pressure on available state aid resources. Not receiving a state grant could put certain colleges out of reach for low-income students – including four-year public universities.
Many High School Graduates are “Intenders,” not “Attenders”
While the majority of JCPS students start down the college path by applying to college, filing a FAFSA and completing enrollment paperwork, a growing percentage never make it to a college campus. This phenomenon, known as “summer melt,” hits 10 percent to 40 percent of college-intending students across the country.
The melt rate is calculated from the number of students who file a FAFSA and do not enroll in college the fall following graduation. JCPS saw its melt rate increase from 11 percent to 19 percent since 2007. This raises concerns that increased college access efforts are not leading to increased college-going rates. The percentage of students melting within JCPS varies widely from school-to-school, with a melt rate as high as 47 percent.
Most significantly, JCPS first-generation college-intenders are twice as likely to melt as their peers.
College Graduation Rates: A Decade of Improvement
Since 2001, the graduation rates at four-year colleges in the Louisville area are up 10 percentage points, to 49 percent, but still lag behind the national average of 59 percent. Two-year college graduation rates are up five percentage points, to 29 percent, and are close to the nation’s average graduation rate of 31 percent.
The University of Louisville made notable gains over the past decade and increased graduation rates by 18 percentage points to an all-time high of 51 percent in 2011. While many different strategies have been piloted, U of L points to enhanced academic advising to help students create a customized “Flight Plan” as one highly successful initiative.
College graduation rates, however, are a limited measure and exclude students who either graduated from another institution or are still enrolled in college. Improved metrics to track the success and progress of all students are being developed.
Persistence Rates Decline at Local Two-Year Colleges
Over the past four years, a higher percentage of students at local two-year colleges have not returned after the freshman year. This decline in “persistence,” the term education officials use, translates to an increase in students stopping out or transferring schools. First-to-second-year persistence rates at local two-year institutions declined most notably among part-time students who represent 41 percent of the student body. Persistence rates among full-time students at two-year institutions also declined.
Persistence remains steady at four-year colleges and universities. However, when only 75 percent of freshmen return for a second year, there is a clear opportunity for improvement to increase graduation rates.
While tracking first-to-second-year persistence is one measure of student progress toward a degree, it does not factor in student mobility, or those students who transfer and continue their education at other colleges and universities.