In Kentucky, gaps in state-supported funding for higher education are, as elsewhere, filled by public and private partnerships. What do we know about these partnerships and the initiatives they support?
The Lumina Foundation, for example, has partnered with the Greater Louisville chamber of commerce to create the 55,000 Degrees initiative (see their 2014 white paper update), to increase the number of people in greater Louisville who have completed college degrees. In other partnerships, the Kentucky Community and Technical College System was selected to partner with Next Generation Learning Challenges on Direct2Degree, a program that began in Spring 2014 to use technology to work toward competency-based education, with the goal of streamlining time to degree completion.
Both of these partnerships are reflective of programmatic patterns to focus on degree completion in reduced time, and the Kentucky Council on Postsecondary Education (CPE) has its own Stronger by Degrees program to increase the number of college degrees statewide. Such partnerships and programs can be seen as responsive to the patterns in state funding; they focus on increasing degrees even as state funding decreases. However, they do not directly articulate what degree programs they support, who guides students in selecting programs and degrees (and how), and how the number of degrees completed in reduced time will contribute to the economic and social development of the state of Kentucky through an educated citizenry.
One new initiative in Kentucky proposes to attune to these issues—specifically, adult education, time to degree completion through competency-based education, and high-demand degree programs. The CPE/Commonwealth College has been selected to partner with Next Generation Learning Challenges, sponsored by the Gates Foundation, as part of their Breakthrough Models Incubator 2015. According to a CPE update from November 2014, “The Commonwealth College is a collaborative effort to implement adult-friendly high-demand programs using innovative policies and delivery methods to better serve Kentucky’s adult population seeking a bachelor’s degree.”
The following questions are important to consider in the coming years as the Commonwealth College project is developed and implemented:
· What high-demand programs will Commonwealth College promote?
· How will these degrees/programs contribute to an educated populace in Kentucky?
· In what ways will technology be used to shape innovation in education, including but also transcending time to completion through competency-based education?