Beshear’s Budget Supports ‘Commonwealth College’ to Help Working Adults Finish Degrees

Working adults in Kentucky could soon have another option for completing their college degrees.

That option is called the Commonwealth College, which would be an online program that would allow students to complete work at their own pace. 

Although Gov.  Steve Beshear’s latest budget proposal cut higher education by 2.5 percent, or $23 million, there were some bright spots for public colleges and universities.

Among his infrastructure and project allocations for higher education, Beshear included more than $3 million ($2 million for each year of the biennium budget for operations and $1.2 million to get the web portal up and running) to help launch the Commonwealth College.

It’s modeled after the Kentucky Community and Technical College System’s program called Learn On Demand. Students could enroll at any time, pay comparable public university costs (those have not yet been determined), and take online learning sections to earn their college degree. All from home.
 

It’s estimated there are 700,000 working-age adults (between ages 24-64) who have some college credit but have not completed their degrees.

“For those folks, returning to a college campus for two years, or three years, is unreasonable and unlikely,” says Bob King, president of Kentucky’s Council on Postsecondary Education.

Students will be encouraged to take lower level general education courses through the KCTCS Learn On Demand program and then move up when ready, he says.

There will be limited degrees offered at the outset, depending on the state’s needs, King says, adding Kentucky’s public universities have been working with the Chamber of Commerce to determine what jobs will be in demand in the future.

The problem is that Kentucky is not preparing its workforce to meet the state’s demands in the coming years, according to the CPE. In a report passed along to state lawmakers, “experts predict by the year 2020, 56 percent of Kentucky’s jobs will require some level of postsecondary education.”

But only 20 percent of Kentucky adults have a bachelor’s degree or higher, the report says.

If the General Assembly approves funding, the Commonwealth College could be launched in 2015.

(Image via Shutterstock)

Devin Katayama

Devin Katayama host middays for WFPL and reports on education and other Louisville issues.

@DevinWFPL

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