The Kentucky Council on Postsecondary Education (CPE) together with the Kentucky Department of Education (KDE) and the Kentucky Higher Education Assistance Authority (KHEAA) have started up a College and Career Outreach Coalition that includes representatives from educational advocates in both the public and private sectors. The main goal of the Coalition is to foster collaboration among outreach practitioners interested in promoting college and career readiness as well as to partner in future promotion work and expand those efforts statewide.
The University of Kentucky has two representatives in the Coalition:
- the Office of Institutional Diversity’s college prep program funded by the CPE – the Governor’s Minority Scholars College Preparation Program (represented by Mildred Bailey); and,
- the Division of Undergraduate Education (represented by Randolph Hollingsworth, Assistant Provost)
Ms. Bailey is also a member-at-large of the inaugural Coordinating Board for the Coalition.
The strategic vision of the Coalition is a statewide culture where Kentuckians seeking educational opportunities at all levels have access to the information and resources they need to prepare for and succeed in the college or career of their choice.
There are three primary audiences that the Coalition will focus on as we work together to emphasize the many pathways to access college and career options in Kentucky.
- Middle and high school students and families, especially those from under-represented communities
- Adults with a high school diploma or less
- First-generation and low-income students and their families
This is primarily an effort to help reduce duplicate efforts, increase awareness of available support resources and provide more consistency in college and career readiness messages. The Coalition will also reach out to share information and communication strategies with Kentucky employers and business owners, K-12 educators and higher education administrators, as well as policy makers and legislators.
During its initial meetings, the founding organizations of the Coalition determined that we should focus on four themes in college and career outreach in Kentucky:
- Value – because college going has remained relatively flat; that 89% of Kentucky’s 2013 ACT-tested graduating class aspired to postsecondary education, but only 55% actually enrolled; and, the value of education after high school remains an ongoing issue of public debate
- Affordability – because 18.6% of Kentuckians live in poverty and the median household income is $42,610; 48% of KY’s college-going population is eligible for free/reduced price lunch at public schools; and, even though 274,130 Kentucky high school students completed the FAFSA last year, 107,552 low-income students did not receive grants (an increase of 37% in non-recipients since 2009-10)
- Readiness – because 17.6% of Kentuckians have less than a high school diploma or GED; 34% of high school graduates did not pursue postsecondary education; and, gaps in college readiness and college success between white students and underrepresented minority students have remained unchanged
- Completion – because statewide, nearly 50% of students who enter college ready to complete a degree within six years but this is compared to readiness rates of 37% for low-income students, 28% of students who score below KY benchmarks for ACT/SAT tests, and 33% of minority students.
Source: “The Making of the Kentucky College and Career Outreach Coalition” presentation, Kentucky Council on Postsecondary Education, 25 February 2015
The Coalition will be working together for the next several years on developing or implementing targeted outreach campaigns with ready-made toolkits and resources such as the “Take the L.E.A.D. Program” (Local Education Advocate Diploma). This training program for Kentucky parents and education advocates is offered through the GEAR UP Kentucky Program, a federal grant funded by the U.S. Department of Education and administered by the CPE. Beginning April 2015, “Take the L.E.A.D.” will be made available to any Kentucky parent for free. Visit taketheleadky.com for more information.
The Coalition members will also collaborate to support or host local gatherings with students and families to help expand access to college and career information resources, especially among traditionally underserved populations. Finally, we hope to expand the professional development and technical assistance opportunities for outreach professionals at all levels in order to enhance research-based practices.
This may be a real indicator of success by the Coalition – when all of us here at the University of Kentucky get to participate in our communities’ work to develop new policies and implement good practices in improving all Kentuckians’ college and career readiness.