Louisville Kentucky 55,000 Degrees
Realizing that a highly educated city creates the most economic opportunity, the Mayor's Office of Louisville Metro has organized strong partnerships between stakeholders in business, government, and education to increase the number of degree holders in Louisville. The 2010 US Census showed that only 30% of Louisville's working age population had a bachelor's degree or more. The education pipeline is Louisville was losing many kids, as a third of students drop out before finishing high school, and another third will not complete college. Additionally, a large achievement gap existed in the city, as Louisville ranked last among comparable cities in degree attainment for African Americans (14%). To draw knowledge-based businesses and jobs, former Mayor Jerry Abramson established the Mayor's Education Roundtable (MER) in 2008. This coalition of stakeholders commissioned a research report on local higher education and developed an education action plan. The MER included leadership from the Business-Higher Education Forum, which provided insight and ideas for how education and workforce goals could be aligned.
In 2010, 23 top stakeholders signed the Greater Louisville Education Commitment in an agreement to join forces over increasing education attainment. Out of this coalition came 55,000 Degrees (55K), a program to move Louisville into the top tier of comparable cities in terms education achievement. By setting goals of adding 40,000 bachelor's degrees and 15,000 associate's degrees, 55K hopes to make half of Louisville Metro's residents degree holders. By leveraging the resources of the business community and attempting to change the college going and completing culture, 55K is hoping to make rapid and positive change in the community. Among other early achievements, 55K has engaged 29 local employers to encourage their employees to finish their degrees and facilitated college preparation courses through local libraries.
Current Mayor Greg Fischer is using his background as a businessman and entrepreneur to run the municipal government like a business and to foster beneficial relationships across sectors. As Chairman of 55K, Mayor Fischer is determined to advocate for policies that improve Louisville's educational standing. The local movement to increase postsecondary completion is buoyed by similar state-level efforts as well, as both Kentucky and the Louisville Metro area are confronting the education attainment gap head on.