Kentucky College-Going Motivation

A few generations ago, a high school diploma opened doors to skilled jobs and middle-class earnings. Today, a college diploma is just as essential; postsecondary education, whether in the form of a two- or four-year college or a technical program, has become a critical step to achieving stable employment and financial security.1 

In Kentucky, by 2018, an estimated 57% of jobs will require postsecondary training.2 Yet, at present, only about 30% of adults in the state have a postsecondary degree.3 Moreover, Kentucky high school graduates without post-secondary education have low earning potential. Three years after graduation, employed Kentucky high school graduates who did not attend college earned $11,511 annually, on average, and only a little more than one in three earned as much as a person employed full-time at a minimum wage job.4 These trends underscore the importance of ensuring students graduate from high school prepared with the knowledge and skills needed to succeed in postsecondary education.

The analyses included in the SDP College-Going Diagnostic provide an opportunity to better understand the postsecondary trajectories of Kentucky’s high school graduates, and they serve as a starting point from which policymakers can gauge the extent of the challenges described above, examine the state's progress over time, and generate hypotheses for more in-depth investigation. The following guiding questions informed the SDP College-Going Diagnostic for Kentucky:

  • How do Kentucky public high school students progress along the college-going pathway—from entering high school through persisting to a second year of college? For example, what share of high school graduates enroll in college, and what share of these persist into a second year?
  • How do college readiness rates differ across Kentucky high schools?
  • How do college enrollment rates vary by high school and by type of college?
  • How do college persistence rates differ according to students’ high school and the type of college they attend?

Pew Research Center (2014). The Rising Cost of Not Going to College. Retrieved from Pew Social Trends website. 

2 Carnavale, A., Smith, N., & Strohl, J. (2010). Help Wanted: Projections of Jobs and Education Requirements Through 2018. Retrieved from Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce website. 

U.S. Census Bureau. (2013). 2013 American Community Survey 1-Year Estimates. Table S1501: Educational Attainment. American Community Survey, 2013. Washington, DC: US Government Printing Office. Retrieved from the U.S. Census Bureau’s Factfinder website. 

McGrew, C. (2014). No College=Low Wages. Retrieved from Kentucky Center for Education and Workforce Statistics website.