Robert King, president of the Kentucky Council on Postsecondary Education, said Thursday that there are two big challenges facing the workforce of the world: robotics and other computerized programs that can replace humans, and of the 3 billion people in the world seeking full-time employment with liveable wages, there are only 1.2 billion jobs currently available that fit that criteria.
King, speaking to the Greater Owensboro Chamber of Commerce’s Rooster Booster Breakfast, then detailed the importance of higher education in not just the commonwealth, but the country and the world. With more and more people becoming educated and with fewer jobs available, the need to receive a post-secondary education even more necessary.
He said that even though Kentucky students are about on par with the national average, they are falling behind in math, science and reading. According to the Programme for International Student Assessment that tests 15-year-olds across the world, the U.S. is about 3 1/2 years behind in math than Singapore, Canada, China and other educational leaders.
“Our kids have got to step it up. We have got to step it up,” King said. “The bar needs to be higher.”
The Kentucky Council on Postsecondary Education has a goal to have at least 60 percent of workers aged 25 to 64 with a postsecondary credential of some sort by 2030. That will take a shared responsibility approach, King said, involving adult education, encouraging students enrolled in higher education programs not to drop out and to finish their degrees in a timely and efficient fashion.
It also means there needs to be more of a focus on high school students receiving their diplomas and moving on to whatever postsecondary credential best suits them, whether that’s a bachelor’s degree or a technical certification program.
King also outlined what he called “game changers” in realizing this goal — aligning math pathways to better place students in the math courses that better suit their career fields or majors; making sure students are placed immediately into credit-bearing courses that help them complete their degrees or certifications sooner; and encouraging students to take at least 15 credits per semester to finish their degrees.
Part of this means support from stakeholders, including funding from the state.
“Since the recession, higher education has seen a 40 percent decrease in funding,” King said.
In 2007, higher education institutions in Kentucky received about $9,018 per student. In 2017, that number is $5,368 per student.
King said the KCPE has been working hard to persuade the governor that funding higher education is an investment in Kentucky’s future.
“If we are going to succeed, we have got to get young people educated,” he said.