2014 Education Scorecard Media

Business First: Panel of heavy hitters explores why students struggle to finish college

Business First: 55,000 Degrees report shows mixed results

Courier-Journal: Louisville college-education effort falling short

Lane Report: Louisville not on track to reach 55,000 Degrees goal – Lane Report

WDRB: City updates progress on 55,000 Degrees program

WFPL: Louisville is Not on Track to Meet Its 55,000 College Degrees Goals

55,000 Degrees Joins White House Day of Action

Education leaders to commit to helping more students

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (December 4, 2014) – 55,000 Degrees, Louisville’s education movement, is renewing its commitment to higher education attainment at today’s White House College Opportunity Day of Action.

President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama are hosting the event at the Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center. 55,000 Degrees Executive Director Mary Gwen Wheeler is joining hundreds of college presidents and other education leaders and partners to announce new actions to help more students prepare for and graduate from college.

The White House College Opportunity Day of Action helps to support the President’s commitment to partner with colleges and universities, business leaders and nonprofits to support students across the country to help the nation reach its goal of leading the world in college attainment.

“It’s invigorating to see the nationwide commitment to helping more young people and adult learners cross the finish line and earn their degrees,” said Wheeler. “President Obama’s commitment highlights how important it is for more students to enroll and succeed in college. A more educated workforce is vital to building a strong economy. That holds true in Louisville and across the nation.”

Today’s participants were asked to commit to new action to help more students prepare for and graduate from college.

55,000 Degrees is committing to a host of new strategies to address the education pipeline challenges in Louisville. These strategies include increasing the college-going rate of JCPS graduates; targeted interventions to reduce summer melt, which keeps “college intenders” from becoming “college attenders”; launching a virtual support center for working adults called Degrees Matter; and increasing targeted services and support to underrepresented students.

The President will announce $10 million to help promote college completion and a $30 million AmeriCorps program that will improve low-income students’ access to college. Today’s event is the second College Opportunity Day of Action. It will include a progress report on the commitments made at the first day of action in January 2014.

Wheeler said renewed efforts on the local level and expanded national commitments will help 55,000 Degrees reach its goal of having 50 percent of Louisville’s working-age adults with college degrees by 2020.

The Day of Action will include remarks from the President, Vice President Biden and the First Lady, panel discussions and breakout sessions. Participants have been invited to attend the White House Tree Lighting Ceremony.

Louisville Adds College Educated Citizens, But Has More Work Ahead

55,000 Degrees in not on track to reach 2020 goal according to 2014 Progress Report 

LOUISVILLE (December 2, 2014) – Louisville is making strides in building a more educated workforce – increasing high school and college graduation rates with 37,000 associate and bachelor’s degrees awarded at local colleges since 2010. But, concerns about cost and the value of a college degree are behind a troubling drop in college enrollment nationally and locally.

These findings are among the measures of Louisville’s education attainment in the 2014 Progress Report released today by 55,000 Degrees, the bold community movement to create a workforce where 50 percent of adults hold college degrees by 2020.

More people in Louisville have college degrees than ever before: 41.5% of the working-age population. The city has added 22,000 degrees to the population since the inception of 55,000 Degrees. But, the community is not on track to reach its 2020 goal.

“We’re making progress, but more must be done,” said Mayor Greg Fischer, chairman of the 55,000 Degrees board. “We not only have to get high school graduates and adult learners to college, we have to get them to the finish line. It matters to the individuals and our entire city. A more educated community attracts better, higher-paying jobs.”

Fischer called on more members of the business community to play an active role in the initiative by defining the skills that are needed so colleges can rapidly respond with applicable courses preparing students for jobs of the future. Business leaders can also step up to help adult learners become degree earners by investing with tuition support, flexible schedules and peer mentors. He also pointed out that growing more high-skill/high-wage jobs will help attract and retain talent in our community.

 Among the most troubling findings in the report is the decrease in college enrollment – a predictor of declines in future degree completions, said Mary Gwen Wheeler, 55,000 Degrees executive director. Concerns about cost and value of a college education are causing more high school graduates and returning adult learners to veer off the path to a college degree.

 “We must convince more people that the actual cost of a college degree, not the sticker price, is an affordable and smart investment in their future,” Wheeler said. “The return on investment for both the individual and the community proves that it’s absolutely worth it.”

She also said 55,000 Degrees must address the critical leaks in the system to improve college-going rates, persistence and college-finishing rates. But, local degree production is only part of the picture. The gain of educated people must be greater than the yearly loss – and jobs are key to that balance.

Next year, the half-way point in the ten-year initiative will be reached. Efforts will be reviewed to intensify the focus of reaching out to more partners to help build a stronger and smarter Louisville.

The complete progress report and Louisville’s education data dashboard can be found at

More information:

Highlights of 2014 Report 

  • More people in Louisville have college degrees than ever before
    • 41.5 percent of working adults in Louisville have a college degree
    • Louisville has added 22,000 degrees since inception
  • Post-secondary degree completions continue to climb
    • Number of undergraduate degrees completed has risen to almost 10,000 per year
    • 13 percent increase in bachelor’s degrees over the past four years
    • 26 percent increase in associate degrees over the past four years
  • More public high school students are graduating
    • JCPS graduation rate in 2014 was 79 percent, up 2.5 points
    • At 61 percent, more JCPS graduates are college and/or career ready
  • 55,000 Degrees is not on track to reach its 50 percent goal by 2020
    • At current pace, the 50 percent target won’t be hit until 2030
    • With faster than expected population growth, 59,000 degrees are needed to reach the goal of 50 percent of working-age adults with a college degree

Gaps in the System 

  • Fewer JCPS high school graduates are going to and finishing college
    • College-going rate has dropped to under 66 percent
    • JCPS college-finishing rate is 20 points below the national average, only 40 percent of college-going JCPS seniors get a degree within six years
  • ‘Summer melt’ is increasing
    • Summer melt measures the difference between “college intenders” and “college attenders”
    • 20 percent of JCPS FAFSA filers did not enroll in college in 12 months
  • Fewer people are enrolling in college
    • Louisville-area colleges have seen a 7,400 student decline since 2010
  • Fewer adult learners are completing their degrees
    • Persistence of adult learners – continued enrollment at any institution – has declined 13 percentage points over the past four years to 42 percent
  • Losing Talent
    • If trends persist, only 1 in 3 local college graduates will be working in the Louisville area five years after graduation

Louisville’s Education Movement Earns National Recognition

Contact: Mindy Peterson
C2 Strategic Communications

Louisville’s Education Movement Earns National Recognition

55,000 Degrees commended for successful collaboration with businesses

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (Oct. 29, 2014) – Louisville has received national attention for its efforts to increase the number of working-age adults who have college degrees. Louisville’s education movement, 55,000 Degrees, is one of the winners in the Talent Dividend competition. Successful efforts to engage and partner with Louisville businesses have earned the city recognition from the Talent Dividend for “Exemplary Business Collaboration.”

“Businesses are a key ally in helping us increase education attainment in Louisville,” said Mayor Greg Fischer, Chairman of the Board for 55,000 Degrees. “This recognition encourages us to work even harder. With the support of more businesses, we can continue to move the bar and push Louisville closer to its goal of having 50 percent of working-age adults with college degrees by 2020.”

55,000 Degrees Executive Director Mary Gwen Wheeler is in Washington D.C. to accept the award at the CEOs for Cities Talent Dividend Competition event. “We know that increasing education attainment is a community effort,” said Wheeler. “Businesses are a critical part of the equation. Whether it’s assistance with tuition reimbursement, a flexible schedule or simply offering information about college programs, businesses are helping us produce a more educated workforce.”

The award highlights the successful collaboration of 55,000 Degrees and Degrees At Work, a program supported by Greater Louisville Inc. and Business Leaders for Education. “GLI’s Degrees At Work continues to address the need for a ready, educated workforce by partnering with area businesses to help working adults complete their education,” said Kent Oyler, president and CEO of GLI. “Louisville’s bold goal of significantly increasing the number of degree holders in our community will make us more competitive for new jobs and business investment.”

Nearly 70 businesses have joined Degrees At Work to promote college-going among employees. To be even more successful, more of Louisville’s employers are needed to join Degrees At Work and support adult workers in earning college degrees.

Louisville currently has the highest percentage of working-age adults with a college degree in the community’s history at 41.3 percent, exceeding the national average by nearly 2 percentage points.

Louisville was one of 57 cities in the United States to enter the Talent Dividend competition, with a $1 million prize for the greatest per capita increase in the number of degrees awarded over a four-year period (2009-2013 academic years).

Louisville ranked just outside of the top ten. Louisville and Jefferson County had a combined increase of 11.5% in college degrees awarded during the time period, which was the twelfth largest increase in the United States. While falling short of the top prize, Louisville takes top honors for cultivating the best business partnerships among the 57 cities in the competition.

The effort afforded Louisville and 55,000 Degrees the opportunity to be part of a learning network during the four-year competition. Each year, registered cities submitted documentation of efforts, policies and initiatives undertaken to increase the number of college degrees. Lessons learned will be used to help Louisville and other cities increase their college attainment rates.


Talent Dividend is a research project designed to calculate the monetary gains cities can achieve by increasing college attainment rates. The project is funded by the Kresge Foundation and Lumina Foundation.

Sunday’s College Fair Helps Students Choose Schools, Find Scholarships

Contact: Mindy Peterson
C2 Strategic Communications


Sunday’s College Fair Helps Students Choose Schools, Find Scholarships 55,000 Degrees among 250 exhibitors sharing information, answers

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (Oct. 10, 2014) – This Sunday afternoon, high school students and working adults will be learning more about earning college degrees at the annual College and Career Expo, the region’s largest college and career recruiting event. The College and Career Expo is in its 22nd year of providing education and career opportunities for young people and adults.

55,000 Degrees, Louisville’s college-completion movement, is among the event’s more than 250 exhibitors from across the country, including colleges, universities, vocational schools and employers. Degrees At Work, a partner program of 55,000 Degrees, will have representatives to assist working adults who want to go to college or finish a college degree.

The College and Career Expo runs from 1 to 4 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 12 at the Kentucky Fair and Expo Center (South Wing, Hall A). Admission and parking are free.

Attendees can meet one-on-one with recruiters, career counselors and admission representatives and learn about the more than $750,000 available in scholarships.

For a full list of exhibitors and for more information, visit or email Follow the College & Career Expo on Facebook: and Twitter: @KyCollegeCareer.

About 55,000 Degrees
55,000 Degrees is Louisville’s ambitious movement to add 55,000 more college graduates in the Louisville area by 2020, increasing the percentage of working-age adults with two or four-year degrees to 50 percent. For more information, go to