Thursday, January 25, 2007

A Decade of Progress?

KentuckianaWorks, the local workforce development group, released fresh educational attainment data for Louisville today from the year 2005. The group released data on key measures of the "educational activity" in the Louisville Metropolitan Area and gives us a ranking in comparison to 16 other regional cities.


In the year 2000 the city and KentuckianaWorks set out on a mission to markedly improve Louisville's standing in comparison to other regional cities by the year 2010. Since 2002 they have been providing a yearly scorecard of the results, and certain trends have certainly come to light.

The Good News:

Louisville is definitely not stagnant in the numbers of people who are being better educated. In fact, Jefferson County has now surpassed the national average of people holding at least a bachelors degree, at nearly 28%.

When compared to the other 16 metro areas, the incredibly important 25-34 age sub-group has the 5th highest High School graduation rate, the 2nd highest rate of college attendance and Associate Degrees, and ranked 12th in Bachelors Degrees. These are all improvements from 2000.

In 2005 Louisville institutions awarded nearly 4,000 bachelors degrees - a 32 percent increase in 10 years.

Louisville now ranks 7th in the total number of post-secondary degrees awarded (Bachelors, Masters, Professional degrees, Doctorates, Associates, and specialized certificates) - up from 12th only 5 years ago.

There are 9,500 more students in Louisville area colleges in 2005 than there were in 2000. To compare, in 1990 there were 50,642 students enrolled in Louisville colleges and in 2000 there were 51,462. In 2005 there were 60,998. In five years there was an 18 percent total increase, much of it thanks to UofL, Jefferson County Community Colleges, Spencerian College, and Sullivan University.

The Bad News

Despite the increases in educational attainment, it was still not enough to push Louisville ahead in all current rankings.

In the number of Bachelors degrees conferred - 3,900 - only two cities, Birmingham and Memphis, conferred fewer. (Jacksonville was only ahead of Louisville by fewer than 70)

In the overall ranking of the entire population, Louisville was dead last in percent of the population with a bachelors degree. The Louisville MSA percentage total was 23.3%. Our nearest competitor, which is the Memphis MSA at 23.7%, is now within the statistical margin of error.

This news, along with lots of other tidbits that one could glean from this report, and other like it, show a definite trend in Louisville. It is growing more educated, and a sightly faster rate than average. Louisville is gaining ground on its regional competitors.

Louisville has a very high number of people who have attended college, yet do not finish. This is a problem for area colleges that is slowly being corrected. University of Louisville is at critical point in it's history. The school's mandate is to become a top 20 urban university, and to achieve that goal they are implementing many new programs, including initiatives to retain and graduate more of it's students. It is slowly having an effect, and we can see those results in the numbers from our younger citizens achievement.

In regards to education, Louisville has had an elephant it has been trying to eat - but you know how to eat an elephant? One bite at a time. And Louisville has finally started doing that.

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