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  • Joe Graviss

Legislative Update - May 2nd, 2020 - House Bill 419

Hi everybody,


Deb and I continue to pray for all of us and a safe and healthy recovery as we begin the transition to re-opening.

It may not have gotten much publicity, but a little-known law that Governor Andy Beshear signed late last month could have a pretty big impact on students graduating from high school in the years ahead.

The goal of House Bill 419, according to its opening line, is to help these young men and women “make more informed decisions about their futures and ensure they are adequately aware of the cost of college and other career paths.” 


The legislation calls for the state’s Council on Postsecondary Education (CPE) to begin compiling information next year on such things as Kentucky’s most in-demand jobs, their starting and median salaries and the education level they require.  Other collected data will offer more details about student-loan debt, the average time needed to obtain a degree and what our college graduates earn as they enter the workforce.


With that knowledge in hand, those leaving high school will have a much better understanding of what to expect as they chart their next steps, and it will also be invaluable for state and business leaders alike in their effort to gauge where Kentucky stands both academically and economically.


Meeting the new law’s requirements shouldn’t be difficult, because CPE, the Kentucky Center for Statistics and other educational organizations have long been reviewing the commonwealth’s progress in these two fields.  Some of their findings from this year alone are particularly illuminating. The Kentucky Center for Statistics, for example, recently took an in-depth look at the high school class of 2014, to see what nearly 44,000 graduates did in the four years that followed. The center found that nearly 5,300 of them earned a four-year bachelor’s degree or higher by 2018, while another 3,700 received a two-year associate’s degree or a postsecondary training certificate tailored to specific jobs. A little more than 18,000 had some college experience, while 2,500 received a career and technical education certificate that many earned while still in high school.  However, a little more than 14,000 graduates – nearly a third of the class – did not attend any postsecondary school.

In January, the CPE released a similar longitudinal study, but this one focused on whether a college education is worth the investment.  The short answer is “Yes.” Its review of 2010’s high school graduating class found that those with bachelor’s degrees were earning $12,000 more per year in 2018 than those who went to work right out of high school.  Over a career, the CPE says, that difference in pay adds up to $1.2 million, which is 26 times more than it cost the student to obtain the bachelor’s degree.  For those with an associate’s degree, the earning differential is $422,000.

As good as those benefit ratios are, the news is even better for the state.  CPE estimated Kentucky spent $630 million to educate the 2010 graduates who attended a postsecondary school, a figure that included direct appropriations to colleges and universities as well as financial aid. In return, these same students are projected to contribute nearly $43 billion through taxes and spending during their careers. That’s $68 for every dollar the state spent, further proof that education really does pay.

This past week, CPE said Kentucky is picking up the pace as it nears the national average of adults having a postsecondary credential.  Nearly 47 percent of Kentuckians fall in this category, which is up 4.5 percent from where we were five years ago.  We’re now just 1.5 percentage points behind the national average, and remain on track to meet our long-range goal of having 60 percent of Kentuckians with a postsecondary credential by 2030.

What makes these numbers even more impressive is that our recent gains were made in the years following the Great Recession, when state appropriations lagged due to numerous budget cuts.

The impact the coronavirus will have on state government spending isn’t fully known yet, but budget officials have already warned of steep reductions measuring in the hundreds of millions of dollars if there is no help from Congress.  Even with assistance, new investments will be difficult for the foreseeable future.

My hope is that we will find a way to at least preserve the progress we’ve made when it comes to postsecondary education, because it plays such a major role in our future success.  We can’t afford to backtrack now. I encourage folks to look at KCTCS to enhance their earnings potential quickly as well.

If you have any thoughts on this matter, I would like to know.  You can reach me by email, and you can leave me a message by calling, toll-free, 1-800-372-7181.

Thanks for all you do and holler anytime.

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