Improving Equity in Higher Education – Prichard Committee for Academic Excellence
Prichard Committee for Academic Excellence

Improving Equity in Higher Education

Simply put, education is the path to a larger life.

This was a key insight of the Prichard Committee’s namesake, Ed Prichard, more than four decades ago. This sentiment rings just as true today.

Over the decades, we have seen more Kentuckians graduating with 2-year and 4-year degrees, and as a result, the median household income across the state has increased.

Unfortunately, however, Kentucky still lags nationally in these metrics when compared to other states. As of 2019, Kentucky ranked:

  • 40th in students enrolled in post-secondary education
  • 32nd in graduation rate from four-year institutions (graduates completing their degrees within a 6-year span of enrollment)
  • 44th in percentage of working age adults with an associate’s degree or higher, and
  • 44th in median household income.

How does this look through and equity lens?

These trends are even more disheartening when intersected with racial demographics across the Commonwealth. The 2019 data from the Lumina Foundation and the US. Census tells a story of significant gaps for Kentuckians in both graduation rates and median income based on race.

Earlier this week, the Kentucky Council on Postsecondary Education released a report on the return on investment of higher education in the state. The study looked at the Kentucky high school class of 2011 and tracked the educational attainment progress of 43,655 students through 2019. They found that of the 16,338 students who left college without a credential or were still enrolled in 2019:

  • 51% were male
  • 4% were low-income
  • 21% were from an underrepresented minority group

The 15,809 students who completed credentials or degrees were disproportionately:

  • Female (58.7%)
  • Not low-income (73.7%)
  • White and Asian (88.4%)

Performance-Based Funding Model for Higher Education is an Equity-Based Solution

To address these issues, the Prichard Committee supports the Kentucky Council on Postsecondary Education’s performance-based funding model for public 2- and 4-year colleges across the Commonwealth. This model would create accountability for public postsecondary institutions as they work toward closing the graduation gaps amongst Kentuckians while also moving toward greater postsecondary enrollment and graduation for all.

Kentucky has set a goal of 60% of working-age adults holding a postsecondary degree or credential by 2030. In order to get there, however, financial support is needed from the state. In our Big Bold Ask, we have asked that the Kentucky General Assembly increase investments in higher education so that by 2026, the state is investing:

  • $311 million more per year in Kentucky’s public universities and community and technical colleges, including the Performance Funding Model
  • $30 million more per year to expand needs-based aid, offering 18,000 more College Access Program (CAP) grants to low-income students.

If the Kentucky General Assembly commits more state support for higher education, we are sure to see many more equitable opportunities for a Big Bold Future in the Commonwealth.

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