Kentucky Degree and Credential Production 2004-2014

The staff at the Kentucky Council on Postsecondary Education recently published a “Kentucky Completion Report: Describing a Decade of Degree and Credential Production” (download the .pdf file from the CPE website here) and shared it with the Council at its regular business meeting on February 12, 2016.

Chart showing growth in degrees from 2-year, 4-year, independent schools and Kentucky overall

Total Degrees and Credentials Awarded by Kentucky Institutions, 2004-05 through 2013-14

The “Kentucky Completion Report” covers the academic years 2004-05 through 2013-14 and offers commentary on the state’s strengths in higher education and policy recommendations for Kentucky’s public and private institutions. Primarily, the findings were that there was an increase in the degrees and credentials earned at Kentucky postsecondary institutions — an increase of 53% since 2004-05 — but with variations in that increase among the types of degrees. (For the full list of all Kentucky institutions’ degrees and credentials and graduation numbers from 2008-09 through 2013-14, see each institution’s degree count by major in a .pdf file available in the CPE Data Portal.)

Chart showing different kinds of credentials and degrees earned and sharp increase in certificates compared to associates, baccalaureate, diploma, doctoral, master's/specialist, post bacc or post-master's certificates

Degrees and Credentials Awarded by Type, 2004-05 through 2013-14

In particular there has been a shift away from the four-year degree and toward alternative forms of credentials.The largest growth in degrees and credentials came from the 2-year public sector. Overall, Kentucky ranked 8th in the nation in the growth in degrees and credentials earned. However, in the four-year public sector, Kentucky ranked 32nd in the list of states with a growth in degree attainment.

Some of the key findings from the report include:

  • Kentucky institutions’ completers of an undergraduate certificate (which are typically vocational and can stand-alone — unlike the undergraduate certificate programs offered by UK) far outpaced the growth in completions of any other degree or credential in Kentucky.
  • Degree attainment by underrepresented minority populations in Kentucky institutions has grown (e.g., since 2009 an increase of 20% of black students and an increase of 125% of Hispanics), however significant achievement gaps remain.
  • The number of baccalaureate degrees grew between 2005 and 2015 BUT the percentage of bachelor’s degrees (out of all the credential types earned) shrank from almost half to around a third of the “completion pie.”
  • In the last ten years, most of the growth in degrees and credentials earned by Kentucky graduates came in fields of study that require technical training: STEM and health fields far and away grew more rapidly than did humanities, business and communication, or education degrees.
  • While women still (since 2009) outnumber the number of men earning degrees and credentials in Kentucky, the growth in the number of those credentials came from male graduates and an overall gender gap remains evident in many disciplines.
  • In the past five years, the pace of growth in degree and credential completion has slowed — 2005-09 showed a 5.3% average annual increase vs. 2010-14 average increase of 4.6% annually.

Kentucky still hovers near the bottom of all the states with its percentage of adults holding postsecondary degrees and credentials (see the chart). The CPE report emphasizes that while gains have been made in the past ten years, by 2020 the number of jobs in Kentucky that require a postsecondary degree or credential might outpace by as much as 10% the number of residents with those requirements. Degree completion at UK becomes even more critical, especially since the pace of growth is slowing down within the Commonwealth’s postsecondary system.


Additional resource: See UK’s degrees and credentials awarded since 2007 by college and department, by academic year (and filter on gender, residency, or race/ethnicity) on the UK Institutional Research and Advanced Analytics website:


About UK Student and Academic Life

Undergraduate Education is now recreated within the Division of Student and Academic Life in the Provost's Office at the University of Kentucky.
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