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55,000 Degrees Report Released Tuesday: Louisville Needs to Play Catch Up

Louisville’s 55,000 Degrees initiative will release its second annual progress report Tuesday, and officials say there has been a slight decline in overall education attainment.

The education initiative chaired by Mayor Greg Fischer was created to increase the number of degrees earned by Louisville residents and to promote a college-going culture.Executive Director Mary Gwen Wheeler says there is some progress in the latest report but not at the rate necessary to reach the group’s 55,000 degree goal by the year 2020.Now, she says the number of working age adults with college degrees has slightly dropped according to the latest census data, which contrasts with last year's report which showed slow growth that still wasn't on pace to reach the goal.“Yes, we weren’t accelerating fast enough but we were on an upward tick, and we’re no longer even on an upward tick,” she says.Last year the number of degrees earned by working-age adults in Louisville rose by 7,000 between 2008 and 2009, which was the most recent data available.The 2011 progress report also showed there were thousands of adults who earned college credit but hadn’t completed their degrees.This year, Wheeler says the overall number of degrees completed at higher education institutions rose, which "implies that people are perhaps leaving to find jobs and that the retaining of and attracting of those with higher education is not staying strong,” she says.There has been some progress in the five goals 55,000 Degrees has set out to meet, but Wheeler says the city needs to accelerate its progress. 1. Create and support a college-going culture. 2. Use the business community’s unique points of leverage to accelerate attainment. 3. Prepare students for success in college, career and life. 4. Make post-secondary education accessible and affordable. 5. Increase educational persistence, performance and progress.The full report will be available on Tuesday.