A Legislative Perspective on the Kentucky General Assembly with State Representative Rick Rand November 28, 2016

A Legislative Perspective on the Kentucky General Assembly with State Representative Rick Rand November 28, 2016

It may not have generated much publicity, but Kentucky’s economy hit a high-water mark in October, when our civilian labor force saw its biggest one-month gain in at least 40 years. It grew by almost 15,000 during those 31 days, putting us just shy of two million people who are either working or actively looking for a job.
It’s a positive sign that underscores the growing strength of our economy, but that’s not the only good news we have received recently on the job front. Just a few days after state officials made that announcement, the Council on Postsecondary Education reported that the number of credentials and degrees awarded by our public and independent colleges and universities has grown by a third over the past decade. The nearly 50,000 students who received these degrees and credentials in 2007 rose to almost 66,000 last school year.
In breaking those numbers down, the Kentucky Community and Technical College System (KCTCS) saw some of the biggest gains, with the number of associate degrees jumping by almost half over the past decade.
Baccalaureate degrees at our four-year schools, meanwhile, went up a little more than a fifth, and doctoral degrees jumped 30 percent.
There is good reason to believe that our postsecondary numbers will continue to increase in the years ahead. Earlier this month, state officials said the expanded dual-credit scholarship program that the General Assembly authorized this year has increased the number of participating high school students by more than 36 percent in just a year’s time.
Last school year, 16,659 students were enrolled in more than 28,000 dual-credit courses, which allows the students to take college-level classes offered by participating colleges. This year, nearly 23,000 students are taking 42,000 courses. The college credit they’re earning through this and the similar Advanced Placement classes are giving tens of thousands of students the ability to complete much of their college freshman year before they graduate high school.
Our postsecondary schools aren’t the only places seeing sustained academic success. According to Kentucky Adult Education, the percentage of working-age adults without a high school diploma or GED dropped by 31 percent between 2000 and 2014, the fourth-best decline among the states over the same timeframe.
Kentucky also ranked among the top 10 states in the percentage of students passing the GED test in 2015-16, with nearly 90 percent of our students clearing that bar.
These gains add up to real money over a career. Last year’s GED graduates alone can expect to earn up to $1 billion more over the next 30 years when compared to those who have not completed their high school education.
Looking ahead, the General Assembly is expected to authorize a new program next year that will help more students afford the rising costs of college.
This program was initially approved by the General Assembly this year, but the legislation establishing its guidelines and the first year of funding in the two-year budget were vetoed. That means new guidelines will have to be approved for what was originally called the Work Ready Kentucky Scholarship.
The House’s goal with this money was to provide the “last dollar in,” so that tuition would be free for graduating high school seniors pursuing their two-year college degree the following fall. As proposed, this scholarship would have covered any financial gaps after taking into account other scholarships and grants.
Although the program’s guidelines are still to be determined, there is hope that the overall goal of making college more affordable will not change. Other states have shown that this can be done at relatively small cost with great success.
As we wait to see the outcome of that proposal next year and any other affecting education, I hope you will continue contacting me about any issue affecting the state.
If you would like to do that, my address is Room 366B, Capitol Annex, 702 Capitol Avenue, Frankfort, KY 40601; or you can email me at [email protected]
To leave a message for me or for any legislator by phone, please call 800-372-7181. For those with a hearing impairment, the number is 800-896-0305.
I hope to hear from you soon.

Paid for by Rick Rand for State Representative, Regina Rand, Treasurer