Postsecondary degrees in Louisville at highest levels ever: Lane Report 10/2019


October 3, 2019 

Progress is encouraging but continued work is needed for lasting change, leaders say

Louisville, Ky. (October 1, 2019) – The percentage of college-educated, working-aged adults in Louisville is at its highest point ever, with 45.5 percent holding an associate’s degree or higher, according to the Census Bureau’s American Community Survey released this week.

“In this period of low unemployment when employers are struggling to find skilled workers, this is great news for our city,” said Mary Gwen Wheeler, executive director of 55,000 Degrees, the city’s multi-sector initiative to increase postsecondary education attainment levels to 50 percent by 2020.

55,000 Degrees began in 2010 as a 10-year initiative to increase the skill and education levels of the working-age population to remain competitive in talent with Louisville’s peer cities. Among the 16 cities that Louisville usually compares itself to, Louisville has moved up one place to 10th on the list, ahead of Birmingham, AL.

Among other highlights in the report:

  • Louisville is 2.5 percent above the national average of 43 percent attainment in postsecondary education;
  • Attainment is 7.5 percent higher than when the 55,000 Degrees initiative started in 2010;
  • Increases were seen at all levels of postsecondary education – associate, bachelor’s and graduate degrees;
  • A decrease was seen in the number of adults with only a high school diploma/GED or less, as well as adults with some college but no degree.

Wheeler said one driver of the gain in overall degrees could be an increase in graduation rates at local postsecondary institutions. Data tracked by 55,000 Degrees shows an increase in degrees awarded at universities and community colleges in Greater Louisville, despite declining enrollment.

“The gains in attainment show significant progress and momentum that partners can build on to bring lasting change to Louisville,” Wheeler said. “What this collective effort of 55K has taught us over the last decade is that we can move the needle if all sectors of a community align their goals and work together. We, as a community, should be encouraged by this progress, but also resolute. Our work is not done. Uniting around the goal has gotten us this far; transformative change will require us to align not just our priorities but our resources as well.”

Education attainment is a key measure of whether cities have the skilled workforce needed for a 21st Century economy. It is also one of four key indicators of a community’s success, as identified by the Greater Louisville Project, which tracks data to drive positive change in the city.

“As our 15-year Milestone report illustrated earlier this year, Louisville has made progress across many measures but hasn’t reached our highest aspirations on any of them,” said Ben Reno-Weber, director of the Greater Louisville Project. “But this latest data is cause for celebration, showing our greatest gain over peer cities is in education, with efforts led by the collaboration of 55,000 Degrees.”

When taking office in 2011, Mayor Greg Fischer listed lifelong learning among three core city values, and education has been a focus for the Mayor, who chairs the 55,000 Degrees Board of Directors. This is part of a broader effort championed by Fischer to support children and families through the Cradle to Career framework, and now Evolve502.

“This is good progress,” Mayor Fischer said of the latest uptick in educational attainment. “But we still have significant work to do, and we need to keep our foot on the gas. We have to continue investing, collaborating and building partnerships, which is the basis for Evolve502, as we marshal the investment necessary to remove barriers to the education credentials that we know are life-changing for individuals, families, neighborhoods and our entire city.”

As it heads into its last year, 55K will continue to report on progress to the 2020 goal, as Evolve502 develops strategies to close achievement and opportunity gaps and tackle the college affordability crisis.

“We must continue to invest in the future of our citizens, and Evolve502 is committed to moving this work forward,” said Marland Cole, Executive Director of Evolve502. “We are convening the community to identify solutions to remove barriers to achievement while also providing the access and support needed for postsecondary success. Together, we will ensure that every child is prepared for college, career, and a successful, productive life.”

For more information, visit 55,000 Degrees’ Education Data Dashboard at


Available Position: 55K Student Success Coordinator

55K Student Success Coordinator

Position Description


Job Summary

55,000 Degrees seeks a Student Success Coordinator who will play a pivotal role in ensuring more Jefferson County Public School (JCPS) graduates pursue their dream of a college education. 55K is a partner of the Louisville Promise, a commitment that every child in Louisville is prepared for college, career, and a successful, productive life.

The Success Coordinator will work to promote successful high school to college transitions for JCPS graduates. With an emphasis on African American, Hispanic, and low income students from Zones of Hope neighborhoods, the coordinator will build relationships with students as well as high school and college support personnel to build trust and ease the transition between high school and college. The coordinator will work with students beginning in their senior year of high school to build “college knowledge” and to avoid predictable barriers to a successful transition to college. The coordinator will engage in holistic and proactive coaching in high schools with a high rate of “summer melt” and will target services toward students planning to attend Jefferson Community and Technical College, Simmons College of Kentucky, or University of Louisville with the ultimate goals of increasing the college-going rate of the targeted population.

Duties and Responsibilities will include but are not be limited to:

  • Establish a presence in selected JCPS high schools
  • Develop a knowledge base of college resources in conjunction with JCPS counselors/staff
  • Establish relationships with and strengthen connections between key high school and college student personnel
  • Proactively build a caseload from select JCPS high schools working with those from targeted student populations who are planning to attend local postsecondary institutions.
  • Provide proactive guidance for students in areas focused on, but not limited to:
    • Academic integration into postsecondary education
    • Social integration into postsecondary education
    • Financial literacy and preparedness for independence
    • Development of individual student plans through postsecondary degree/certificate completion.
  • Partner with postsecondary institutions and staff to ensure a seamless and productive transition for students
  • Build a network of campus-based student support personnel to promote student success


Knowledge, Skills, and Abilities

The Student Success Coordinator will have at minimum a BA or BS degree, and at least two years of work experience, in social work, counseling or other education fields. In addition, candidates must have:

  • Experience related to the provision of holistic student support services at the high school or 2- or 4- year postsecondary levels.
  • Commitment to inclusive excellence and the ability to develop mentoring relationships with a diverse student population.
  • Knowledge of postsecondary systems of support
  • Adaptability, flexibility, and an ability to learn quickly in order to serve the needs of students
  • Strong interpersonal skills, organizational skills and attention to detail
  • Ability to build relationship and connections between individuals and systems that can help support students in need
  • Microsoft Office Suite skills
  • Bilingual candidates preferred (preference for English/Spanish speakers)



The Community Foundation of Louisville serves as the fiscal sponsor of 55,000 Degrees. The position is a professional, full-time, exempt staff assignment and will be eligible to participate in the Community Foundation of Louisville’s Employee Health and Benefits Plan as set forth in the Foundation’s personnel policies. Compensation will be commensurate with skill level and experience.


This is a grant-funded position, with an anticipated end date of December 31, 2020. Although the grant is expected to end on that date, we will seek to identify sustainable funding so that this position’s tenure might be extended.


About 55,000 Degrees:

55K, a cross-sector partnership committed to increasing education attainment in Greater Louisville, is a partner of the Louisville Promise. Louisville Promise is a community effort to remove persistent barriers to student success and college attainment. This work will take two forms.

  • A scholarship available to every JCPS graduate that makes at least a two-year college degree affordable and achievable.
  • An unprecedented coalition of community, government and education organizations who will work together in new and innovative ways to ensure every student gets the supports and opportunities they need to succeed, cradle to career.

Interested applicants should submit a resume and cover letter to Initial screenings will begin August 17 and interested applicants are encouraged to submit their resume by that date.

“Opportunity Costs: Is A College Education Affordable Today?” Media Coverage


Affordability Report Spotlights Key Obstacle to College
“Working your way” through school is not an option for many families

A college affordability study looking at Louisville and Kentucky higher education colleges found that “all too often, the numbers just won’t add up” when it comes to Louisville families wanting to send a student to college, without resorting to loans.
While “working your way” through college is often held up as an ideal for students, this report examined what that would realistically look like for ten hypothetical college students and found that it was unrealistic for many of them.
This illuminating approach was adapted from the Institute for Higher Education’s methodology from their recent “Limited Means, Limited Opportunity” report and uses the Lumina Foundation’s Rule of 10 to measure affordability, by comparing potential savings and part-time job earnings to net cost.
Key Findings:
• Only two of the ten hypothetical students could afford to go to any Louisville college using savings and “working their way” through school, without taking out loans.
• Only one of the 10 could afford any Kentucky four-year public college.
• Even the students from families making six figures could not afford every school in the state, without loans.
What’s affordable?

The Lumina “Rule of Ten” defined “affordable” in simple terms. It assumes that:
• Families save 10 percent of their discretionary income for each of the 10 years leading up to college.
• Students work 10 hours a week while going to college.

Those savings and earnings are then compared to the “net tuition” at Kentucky and regional public and private schools.

Bottomline: The report stresses that this is not a statistical look at Jefferson County families, but it nevertheless examines what “affordable” would look like for different families at different income levels. The result was clear. Many families, of all income levels, will struggle to pay for college without debt.

Insider Louisville:

Insider Louisville (Newcomers Academy):



The Paducah Sun:

Talent Hubs Across the United States

Albuquerque, New Mexico

Lead Partner Organization: United Way of Central New Mexico (Graduate! ABQ)

Austin, Texas

Lead Partner Organization: Quality of Life Foundation of Austin (Austin Chamber of Commerce)

Boston, Massachusetts

Lead Partner Organization: The Boston Foundation

Cincinnati, Ohio

Lead Partner Organization: Strive Partnership (Intergenerational Success Project)

Columbus, Indiana & Northern Kentucky (Covington, KY; Newport, KY)

Lead Partner Organization: Community Education Coalition / EcO Network

Columbus and Southeast Indiana

Lead Partner Organization: Community Education Coalition / EcO Network

Dayton, Ohio

Lead Partner Organization: Learn to Earn Dayton

Denver, Colorado

Lead Partner Organization: Denver Education Attainment Network (DEAN)

Fresno, California

Lead Partner Organization: Central Valley Higher Education Consortium / Fresno Compact

Los Angeles (San Fernando Valley), California

Lead Partner Organization: UNITE-LA

Louisville, Kentucky

Lead Partner Organization: 55,000 Degrees

Nashville, Tennessee

Lead Partner Organization: Nashville Area Chamber of Commerce

New York City, New York

Lead Partner Organization: City University of New York Academic Affairs

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Lead Partner Organization: Graduate! Philadelphia

Racine, Wisconsin

Lead Partner Organization: Higher Expectations for Racine County

Richmond, Virginia

Lead Partner Organization: Bridging Richmond

Shasta County, California

Lead Partner Organization: North State Together

Tulsa, Oklahoma

Lead Partner Organization: Tulsa Regional Chamber



Kentucky Work Ready Scholarship Application Now Open

Originally posted on the KHEAA Work Ready webpage.

The Work Ready Kentucky Scholarship helps Kentuckians who have not yet earned an associate’s degree afford an industry-recognized certificate.

  • Student must:
    • Be a U.S. citizen or permanent resident
    • Be a Kentucky resident
    • Be a high school or GED graduate
    • Have not earned an associate’s or higher degree
    • Be enrolled, or accepted for enrollment, at an eligible postsecondary institution in an approved program of study that leads to an industry recognized certificate in a high-demand workforce sector.
      • Qualifying areas for the 2017-2018 year are health care, advanced manufacturing, transportation/logistics, business services/IT, and construction
    • Not be in default on any obligation to KHEAA
  • Application:
  • Award:
    • Amount equals tuition amount minus federal and state grants and scholarships, up to the maximum amount.
    • Maximum amount shall not exceed the in-state tuition and fees rate for full-time enrollment at the Kentucky Community and Technical College System. Estimated near $3,900 for the 2017-2018 year.
  • Eligibility:
    • Expires when the first of the following conditions is met:
      • Receipt of scholarship funding for the equivalent of four academic terms;
      • Receipt of the scholarship for 32 credit hours of enrollment; or
      • Receipt of a first associate’s degree
    • Recipients must earn a grade point average of 2.0 or higher each semester the scholarship is received in order to be eligible the following semester.