Project Graduate

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Kentucky's Project Graduate - Bringing Kentucky's adult students back to complete their degree

Project Graduate is a student recruitment program designed to bring Kentuckians with 90 or more college credit hours but no bachelor's degree back to college to finish their degree. It is a collaborative effort between the Kentucky Council on Postsecondary Education (CPE), Kentucky's public universities and the Association of Independent Kentucky Colleges and Universities.

The Goal[edit]

As charged by the Kentucky Postsecondary Education Act of 1997 (HB1), the CPE leads efforts to increase the education attainment of Kentucky citizens to at least the national average by 2020. In alignment with HB 1, the Council released the “Double the Numbers Plan” in October 2007, calling for the state to double the number of Kentuckians with at least a bachelor’s degree by 2020. One of the key strategies of the Double the Numbers plan is to increase the number of working-age adults going to and completing college. The Council’s 2020 statewide target is to increase the percent of adults in college from 3.6 percent to 4.5 percent.

The Problem[edit]

According to the 2000 U.S. Census, more than 500,000 Kentuckians have some college and no degree. State data analyzed by the CPE show more than 300,000 Kentucky adults between the ages of 25 and 50 have some college credit from a Kentucky public institution, but no degree. A closer look revealed 233,000 of them were between the ages of 25 and 40. Even more compelling, more than 11,000 of those former students have earned 90 or more credit hours.

The Response[edit]

In May 2007, CPE staff convened a marketing work group to target the 11,000 adults with 90 or more credit hours to return to college to finish their degree. The workgroup was composed of public relations officers, enrollment managers, continuing education staff and/or student affairs representatives from each partner institution.

The highly targeted outreach effort, a part of the Council’s college access outreach campaign, was named Project Graduate. Participating universities developed campus action plans to provide a high-touch experience for their returning adult students. Each plan details the incentives and special services offered by the institution and identifies a campus response team to ensure those who respond and qualify can take advantage of incentives and quickly navigate the admissions process.

The CPE developed a strong brand identity for Project Graduate, a customizable direct-mail campaign (postcards and a letter signed by the president) and a Project Graduate Web site that identified participating institutions, their incentives and their contact person. The Council publicly launched Project Graduate in November 2007 as a collaborative outreach effort with the institutions. Each institution initiated its own outreach efforts in spring 2008 using the customizable marketing products.

As of October 2008, Project Graduate teams at Kentucky’s public universities have helped at least 49 adults earn their bachelor’s degrees and 460 have returned to college and enrolled in classes. The Council is continuing to work with the Project Graduate team to support their efforts. A marketing communications plan is under development to step up outreach to this target audience and to identify strategies to reach out to the larger adult learner market in Kentucky.

The Partners[edit]

Kentucky colleges and universities participating in Project Graduate include:

Public Colleges and Universities:

Independent Colleges and Universities:

The Research: Survey of Kentucky Adults with Some College[edit]

While Project Graduate was being planned, the Council contracted with a national higher education research and marketing firm to conduct a statistically valid telephone survey of the broader audience—the 233,000 Kentuckians with some college. The survey sought to identify market segments of Kentucky adults with some college credit but no bachelor’s degree who could be motivated or receptive to incentives to re-enroll in college. The survey included 1,610 Kentucky adults with some college equally distributed in four regions across the state. Research findings will inform the development of an integrated marketing plan for the broader audience of adult learners, as well as further discussion on practices, programs and policies that will meet the unique needs of Kentucky’s adult learners.

Kentucky Adult Learner Initiative[edit]

Building upon the research findings of the 2007 study of adults with some college, the Council launched the Kentucky Adult Learner Initiative to develop recommendations on practices, programs and policies to meet the unique needs of adult learners in postsecondary education. Funded by the Lumina Foundation for Education, the initiative kicked off with a Kentucky Adult Learner Initiative Summit in February 2008 and a statewide advisory board was formed to address the needs of the adult learner. Three work groups are convening throughout 2008 to develop recommendations to bring back to the advisory board in three areas: credit for prior learning, financial aid for adult learners, and flexible delivery of academic programs to increase adult learner access. Recommendations are expected to be finalized by December 2008.