In 2011, KCTCS, along with community colleges in Illinois, Kansas and Louisiana, launched a new program through Jobs for the Future called Accelerating Opportunity. The goals of Accelerating Opportunity Kentucky (AOKY) were threefold.
- Allow students who need to earn their GED to do so while they are also enrolled in college courses
- Allow students to earn one or more certifications that helps them get a better job now with a family sustaining wage
- Allow students to earn college credit that leads to a degree in the future
I was involved with AO right from the beginning because I strongly believed Kentuckians could benefit from this program. And they have.
A recently released report shows the program was a success in all four of the pilot states. In total, 4,300 students earned more than 79,000 college credits and nearly 6,800 college credentials. The study looked at the likelihood of AO students earning a college credential over a comparison group. At KCTCS, we saw a 133 percent increase in our AO students versus their counterparts who were not in the program.
The AOKY students who became employed also got better jobs than those in the control group. Our AOKY students had a gain in earnings of 43 percent over the average comparison group earnings. That increase averages $855 per quarter.
Our internal research shows that students benefit from the style of the program as well. Students begin their classes with a group and the group stays together throughout the program. This cohort model provides a support system for students who may not have one at home since many are first-time college students. The cohort model, along with the team teaching and coaching concept, has proven to be an important component of student success.
Recently, I had the opportunity to see a personal example of AOKY student success. While visiting one of our colleges, I met a student who spoke very eloquently about AOKY and how it helped her not only in moving toward her career dreams, but also in building her self-confidence. Like many students who have been out of school for a while, she had doubts about her ability to succeed in college. Now, through AOKY, she’s found she can be successful and is well on her way to an associate degree. But, she’s not stopping there. She plans to go to medical school!
Here’s even more good news to share about the AOKY program. Students who are enrolled in our AOKY program are eligible for the new Work Ready Kentucky Scholarship Program, which covers up to 32 credit hours in five business sectors. Students who are working on their GED while also earning college credentials can apply for the new scholarship for programs in health care, advanced manufacturing, transportation/logistics, business services/information technology and construction/trades.
Many thanks to Gov. Bevin for opening up the scholarship to AOKY students. I am so proud of the work we’ve done in AOKY and believe this new opportunity can help us improve the lives and employability of even more Kentuckians.