Screen Shot 2016-03-23 at 3.28.25 PMCollege enrollment in Kentucky has fallen 12 percent in the last four years, in part because of rising tuition costs, but a local organization said low-cost college options are available and remain critical to securing the jobs of the future.

55,000 Degrees has issued a new report, “Fast Forward: Affordability in Focus,” that acknowledges the “modern paradox” of college becoming ever more critical to landing a job at the same time that attending college is getting more expensive, in part because the state keeps cutting funding for education.

55,000 Degrees, a public-private partnership, wants to add 40,000 bachelor’s and 15,000 associate degrees by 2020 to prepare Louisville and its residents for the jobs of the future.

While tuition costs and other fees in the Louisville area for four-year institutions have risen an annual average of 6.2 percent since 2008, and 5 percent for two-year colleges — not adjusted for inflation — the organization suggests affordable options remain.

Matt Berry

Matt Berry

“Postsecondary education still has a fantastic payoff,” the report’s co-author, Matt Berry, told IL.

Berry, who also is the organization’s director of strategy and impact, said that highly publicized spikes in tuition and fees represent a college “sticker price” but that the actual cost to families, the “net price,” is lower because of grants and scholarships.

The report shows, for example, that the net price at a local private not-for-profit institution is about $23,000 — much less than the sticker price of nearly $44,000. At public two-year institutions, students pay a net of $6,565, compared to a sticker price of $10,617.

To publicize the report’s finding and to get input from the community, 55,000 Degrees will hold an interactive conversation from 9 to 10:30 a.m. at Bellarmine University’s Campus Center. Berry said the organization wants to encourage more people to seek postsecondary education and to generate ideas for how to get more people into college.

55,000 DegreesThe share of jobs that require education beyond high school is rising. By 2020, more than 60 percent of Kentucky jobs will require a postsecondary degree, according to the report.

“And right here in Louisville, 75 percent of family-supporting jobs projected to be added over the next ten years will likely require some form of postsecondary education,” the report said.

The report identifies three stepping stones to clear the education hurdle:

  • Increase knowledge and awareness: Students, parents and community members should learn as much as they can about college to become educated consumers. Resources students should consult include the College Scorecard from the U.S. Department of Education.
  • Demand both investment and curtailment of cost increases: Berry said community members should demand that the state refrain from further cuts to higher education and that schools stop increasing the number of administrators on campus and boosting executive salaries.
  • Pull together as a community: The community must continue to push for greater access and better outcomes for all students in the community.