Moving Forward: New Strategic Plan Creates KCTCS Map for the Next Six Years

In June, the Board of Regents approved the 2016-22 KCTCS strategic plan. As you recall, the research for this plan was conducted differently than ever before. We started last year by sending a survey to a wide variety of stakeholders and visiting all the colleges to gather input. When all was said and done, more than 4,000 community members, business leaders, students and employees participated.

Now, all of the input and suggestions have been narrowed down into our goals for the next six years. The 2016-22 KCTCS Strategic Plan goals are:

  • Raise the level of educational attainment in the Commonwealth by positioning KCTCS as the accessible, affordable and relevant postsecondary education choice for Kentuckians.
  • Increase the access and success for all KCTCS students, particularly among traditionally underserved populations.
  • Develop clear pathways through all levels of postsecondary education with an emphasis on experiential learning that lead to successful employment outcomes for KCTCS graduates.
  • Improve student engagement, support, experiences, and success with best-in-class academic and student services.
  • Align programs and curricula with needs of employers that enhance the employability, job placement and career development of KCTCS graduates.

Our plan is aligned with several state agencies and associations, like the Kentucky Chamber of Commerce, the Kentucky Workforce Innovation Board, the Kentucky Department of Education and CPE to ensure we’re all focused on a strategic vision for Kentucky.

Additionally, each college has a new strategic plan that is aligned with the systemwide plan. Their plans focus on local needs and will allow our colleges to have an immediate, as well as long-term, impact on their communities and local business needs.

Thanks again to all of you who participated in helping develop a plan for moving forward toward these new goals. My personal goal is to continue to make KCTCS a model for community colleges around the nation.

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KCTCS Junior Dual Credit Scholarship Coming Soon to a High School Near You

This fall we will offer a free dual credit class to Kentucky public high school juniors, allowing them to earn high school and college credit at the same time. Our program for juniors aligns with Gov. Matt Bevin’s new dual credit initiative primarily for high school seniors, which provides them the opportunity to take two college courses via the new Kentucky Dual Credit Scholarship.

All of our colleges will participate in the state’s scholarship program. There is no cost to students for either the KCTCS Junior Dual Credit Scholarship or the Kentucky Dual Credit Scholarship. If students choose to take more classes than are covered by the state scholarship, they would pay $52 per credit hour.

This week representatives from the colleges and System office met to discuss processes and work through other questions surrounding the state scholarship. The work done in the large group will now flow through a smaller workgroup to finalize the details.

The governor’s goal is for graduates to leave high school with a minimum of nine postsecondary credit hours. By committing $600,000 to a scholarship program for juniors, we will help students meet that goal.

Providing dual credit opportunities to Kentucky high school students to reduce the cost and time required to get a college degree has long been a priority for KCTCS. We are the dual credit leaders in the Commonwealth. Whether students want to quickly earn a credential and go to work or transfer to a four-year university to earn a bachelor’s degree, the nine free credit hours earned in high school will give students a head start.

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New Report Spotlights KCTCS Success

Last week the Kentucky Chamber of Commerce and the Prichard Committee for Academic Excellence released a report on the state of education in the Commonwealth. One part of the report focuses on higher education with a spotlight on KCTCS and our mission.

The report says that KCTCS has been described as “the most substantial change to the state’s postsecondary system” and that our results “are considered one of the key success stories of the 1997 reforms.” The report also cites statistics from the 2015 NCHEMS report that show how our system drove improvement in several areas, including enrollment growth and degree attainment.

None of this could’ve happened without the hard working men and women at our 16 colleges and the System Office. It also shows we have strong leaders at our colleges who put students first.

The report says we still have work to do to bring Kentucky up to even higher national standards. We know the challenges we face, but we aren’t deterred. Our folks are working diligently to meet the needs of our students, and we remain focused on our mission of improving the lives and employability of Kentuckians.

Thanks to the Kentucky Chamber and Prichard Committee for developing this report. And thanks to everyone at KCTCS who continues to make this system better.

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SOAR Innovation Summit showcases five colleges

As I look around the state at all the opportunities our students have, I can’t help but be excited about what’s going on in eastern Kentucky because of the Shaping Our Appalachian Region (SOAR) initiative.  KCTCS is a proud partner of SOAR. In fact, five of our colleges – Ashland, Big Sandy, Hazard, Somerset and Southeast Kentucky – operate within the SOAR region.

Our SOAR colleges offer programs focused on community development, entrepreneurship, fiber optics, information technology and more. They have served more than 110,000 first-generation college students since 2008, and awarded more than 41,000 degrees and credentials since 2010.

Today these five colleges are participating in the SOAR Innovation Summit in Pikeville, which is helping connect people with opportunities and solutions to challenges facing the region. Being a part of SOAR and the Innovation Summit presents opportunities for us to help shape a generation of students, learners, opportunity seekers, entrepreneurs, trade workers, scholars and leaders that will impact the region now and for generations to come.

Being a SOAR partner is just one more way we’re living our mission to improve the lives and employability of Kentuckians.

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Employers Fortunate to Hire KCTCS Grads

Graduation is one of my favorite times of the year because our students are so diverse and interesting. We have graduates who are only two years out of high school graduating alongside former coal miners and others who’ve trained for a second career. We have those who are going straight to work graduating with others who want to continue their education with one of our four-year partners. We have students who grew up in rural and urban areas graduating with people who grew up in other countries. And, we have people who are still in high school graduating with people who remember Woodstock.

This diverse population helps our students gain excellent life skills that prepare them to work with all types of people. This is very important in today’s world of work. Employers are struggling to find people who communicate well, know the importance of showing up on time and have a strong work ethic.  Many of our students had to overcome substantial barriers to reach their goal of becoming a college graduate and it has made them tenacious and goal oriented. Our graduates are some of the most humble and appreciative people I’ve ever met. Any employer would be fortunate to have them on their team.

The 16 colleges of KCTCS are special places full of extraordinary people, both students and those whose job it is to teach and guide them.  Congratulations to all of our graduates and the many people in their lives who’ve helped them achieve this dream. I wish continued success to all of our grads and the employers who hire them!

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Celebrating Community College Awareness Month

April is Community College Awareness Month, which provides a great opportunity to reflect on why community colleges are important to our students, business and industry and Kentucky’s economy. Our nation’s community colleges were founded on the concept of social justice and providing all Americans, particularly those economically and socially disadvantaged, an affordable and accessible education. That’s our mission at KCTCS, and it’s one we take very seriously.

People from all walks of life choose to begin their college journey at KCTCS because of our many locations throughout the state, affordability and open access policy. Our graduates have gone on to become doctors, lawyers, professors and teachers, elected officials, researchers, chefs, TV meteorologists, business owners, firefighters, jockeys, filmmakers, company managers, health care leaders and college administrators, just to name a few.

We serve thousands of businesses and their employees each year through our Workforce Solutions training programs, award 69 percent of the state’s total allied health care credentials and 80 percent of the state’s firefighters.

We are here to help people reach their dreams. To date, we’ve done that for more than 750,000 Kentuckians. That’s a lot to celebrate!

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Thank You for Being a Champion

Now that we’ve reached the end of the legislative session, it’s time to say “Thanks!” to the thousands of Champions, especially our Business Champions, for answering the call to participate in our Fuel the Force campaign. Although we are still awaiting the final budget, I want to assure you your efforts helped to make a real difference.

KCTCS is the Commonwealth’s institution. It belongs to our students, faculty, staff, business and industry leaders, community members, officials and policymakers. With that in mind, we took a different approach to advocacy efforts. In my opinion, a message is stronger when it comes from those who do not have to speak for us, but choose to speak for us, on their own time and in their own way. Your visits, phone calls, letters, emails and social media posts have demonstrated how important KCTCS and your local college are to you, your workforce and your community. At one point in the campaign, nearly 8,500 of you contacted legislators on behalf of KCTCS. This is a phenomenal response, and I thank you for it.

Because of your advocacy efforts, stakeholders and policymakers across Kentucky now have a better understanding of how KCTCS fuels Kentucky’s workforce. I sincerely hope that this understanding will be reflected in the budget. As we’ve said from the beginning, an investment in KCTCS is an investment in Kentucky jobs.

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Heading for the Finish Line

Our 16 colleges have just finished spring break, which gives faculty, staff and students time to relax and recharge before the end of the semester rush. Completing the spring semester brings a great feeling of completion and celebration, but we’re not there yet.

These next few weeks are stressful for students as they finish up their classwork and study for finals. Even though it’s a hectic time for faculty and staff as well, our job is to help students get through it and accomplish their goals.

One of the greatest rewards for us is to see our students complete their programs and graduate. And what a feeling of accomplishment for them! Some of them weren’t sure they could do the work, but our faculty and staff were there cheering them on and helping get them to this point. Now, we have to help them get over the finish line.

During the next few weeks, our faculty and staff will increase their roles as cheerleaders, coaches, counselors and mentors. When students get down and think they can’t finish, we will remind them why they’re here and that their sacrifices are worth it.

I talk a great deal about the Kentucky Dream of improving lives through education that leads to good jobs. For our students to live this dream, we must continue to be their dream catchers. Let’s make sure our students make it across the finish line and celebrate their win!

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Bachelor’s Degree NOT Required

There’s been a great deal of media coverage about the high cost of a bachelor’s degree, the staggering amounts of student loan debt and how some graduates end up in jobs with low salaries that make them question if college was worth it. Many people believe you must have at least a bachelor’s degree to get a good job in today’s market, but that’s not always true. There are many good jobs that require only a certificate, diploma or associate degree.

For example, jobs in advanced manufacturing are available in many parts of the state. Employers are scouring the state to find trained employees who are ready, willing and able to work in high tech, clean manufacturing facilities. In those jobs, workers are earning $50,000 or more depending on the company and type of work they do. Ever thought about being a lineman? You could make nearly $60,000. Or how about an aircraft mechanic? Those jobs can pay more than $75,000 a year.

Additionally, the health care field is ripe with opportunities. Did you know the average wage for dental hygienists is more than $56,000? And registered nurses can make even more.

You can also make a good wage in skilled trades jobs like plumbing, carpentry and HVAC as well as in fields such as computer information technology, physical therapy assisting, respiratory therapy and many others.

The 16 colleges of KCTCS offer the best deal going with the lowest tuition in the state and some of the fastest ways to get to work or get ahead at the job you already have. The other plus is that our colleges offer programs tailored to business and industry in each community, so you are preparing for jobs close to home.

Yes, a bachelor’s degree is important in some fields, but you don’t have to get a four-year degree or have massive student loan debt to get a good education and a good job. Sometimes, bachelor’s degrees are not required.

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KCTCS is Ready for the Work Ready Kentucky Scholarship

There was a lot of media coverage and social media buzz last week after the press conference announcing the filing of a new piece of legislation to provide free community college to Kentucky high school students. House Bill 626, also known as the Work Ready Kentucky Scholarship, would provide free tuition to attend KCTCS for qualified students who graduate from a Kentucky high school or earn a GED by age 19. The bill is similar to what was passed in Tennessee, called the Tennessee Promise, which received wide bipartisan support after the state’s Republican governor proposed it.

This a last dollar program, which means students would receive the scholarship only after other scholarships and grants are factored in. We know there are several thousand Kentucky high school students who still feel like higher education is out of reach. Work Ready Kentucky would help eliminate financial barriers for many struggling middle class families. Those who have the most need would continue to receive a free education through Pell Grants and other financial aid. The Work Ready Kentucky Scholarship program would be administered by the Kentucky Higher Education Assistance Authority (KHEAA).

Our four-year partners will benefit from this as well because it will provide a new stream of transfer students who may not have planned to attend college. This scholarship program is an investment in Kentucky and Kentuckians. It also will help fulfill the Governor’s vision of creating a skilled workforce that will make the Commonwealth a destination for new and expanding businesses.

As exciting as this program is, I want to be clear that our Fuel the Force campaign is just as important as it was before this scholarship announcement. KCTCS has only two sources of revenue, tuition and state appropriations. Although this scholarship program is great news for high school students, and may increase our enrollment, it will not offset the $17 million state appropriation reduction that we’re facing if the Governor’s proposed budget plan is enacted.

It’s still important for you to become a champion for KCTCS and contact legislators to ask them not to cut our state appropriation. Many thanks to all who have done that. For those who haven’t, there’s still time. I ask for your continued support as we work through the remaining weeks of this legislative session. I’ll keep you updated about HB 626 and any other legislation that affects KCTCS.

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