“College Still Pays,” a policy brief issued today by the Council on Postsecondary Education, shows that now more than ever it pays for Kentuckians to get a college degree or credential. College attainment helps insulate citizens from unemployment and provides access to higher-paying jobs.

Jobs requiring at least some college have been growing rapidly in Kentucky. By 2020, it is estimated that 56 percent of Kentucky’s jobs will require at least some postsecondary education.

Council President Bob King said, “The 21st century economy is requiring more highly educated workers and the demand for these workers will only grow in the future. Making the investment in a college degree is still among the best investments any person can make.”

The policy brief examined employment, unemployment and earnings by education level, as well as the earnings gap between more- and less-educated workers.

The key findings are described below.

Employment - Since 1994, the number of employed Kentuckians with a bachelor’s degree climbed 80 percent, while those with some college or an associate degree increased 30 percent. Meanwhile, the number of Kentucky employees with a high school diploma or less decreased 11 percent.

Unemployment - In 2010, Kentuckians with a high school diploma or GED were twice as likely to be unemployed than those with a bachelor’s degree. The disparity was even greater for those without a high school diploma who were three times more likely to be unemployed than baccalaureate degree recipients.

Earnings - In 2011, taking into account all workers including new hires, those with a bachelor’s degree and above earned an average of $63,240; some college--$42,612; high school or GED--$36,936; and workers without a high school degree earned $31,476.

Earnings gap - The education earnings gap between more-and less-educated workers adds up over a lifetime. Based on an annual wage increase of 1 percent over a 40-year career, Kentuckians with some college or an associate degree are projected to earn an additional $289,000 compared with high school graduates. Bachelor’s degree recipients will earn an additional $879,000, while those with a graduate degree can anticipate an additional $1.34 million, according to estimates by the brief’s authors.

Social benefits - In addition to earnings and employment, increased education is associated with lower poverty rates, better health outcomes, less reliance on public assistance and less crime.

The report concludes, “A college education has transformative powers for our citizens and for the commonwealth. Increasing educational attainment, while maintaining affordability, is the key to unlocking a brighter future for Kentucky.”

“College Still Pays” can be found online at http://cpe.ky.gov/NR/rdonlyres/8DE2CF1E-51A2-4C27-8C2B-41FB126252FE/0/CollegeStillPayspolicybrief.pdf.


We believe in the transformative power of postsecondary education. Stronger by Degrees, the new strategic agenda for Kentucky’s colleges and universities and adult basic education, is powering a stronger Kentucky economy and improving the lives of Kentuckians. To learn more about Stronger by Degrees, visit http://cpe.ky.gov/strongerbydegrees.
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