Economic Development Newsroom

Louisville Progressing in Educational Attainment, STEM Degrees

Thursday May 8, 2014

In a newly released comparison of 16 peer cities, the Louisville-Southern Indiana region is the only metro area that has moved up in the rankings of per capita degree attainment in every category of academic achievement – from certificates and diplomas to graduate and professional programs – since 2000. 


“This report cites many instances of our region’s progress that the entire community should celebrate,” said Mayor Greg Fischer. “However, other indicators support the fact that we still have a lot of work to do in improving educational attainment in our metro area.”


Now in its 10th year, the KentuckianaWorks Human Capital Scorecard reports yearly progress in the Louisville Metro’s top priority for economic development – raising the educational attainment of its workforce. The Scorecard, produced by economic and demographic researchers at the University of Louisville’s Urban Studies Institute, is based on data from three-year estimates from the U.S. Census Bureau’s American Community Survey. 


Among the findings noted in the Scorecard are the following:

·         Since 2005-07, the Louisville Metropolitan Statistical Area’s (MSA) increases in high school and college attainment have been among the best of the peer groups. In fact, the Louisville MSA had the best increase in the college attainment rate and the 5th best in high school attainment among the competitor metros.

·         The biggest gains in postsecondary educational attainment occurred in bachelor’s degrees and graduate or professional degrees.

·         For 35-44 year olds, the data revealed a significant increase in the bachelor’s degree attainment rate – from 25.9 percent in 2005-07 to 29.6 percent in 2010-12. The percent of 25-34 year olds with a bachelor’s degree also climbed during the same time frame – from 26.4 percent to 30.7 percent – and showed the largest increase among the peer metros.

·         In 2012, total postsecondary enrollment in the Louisville MSA is 35 percent greater than in the fall of 2000, with full-time enrollment up an even more impressive 49 percent.  However, postsecondary institutions saw enrollment decrease 2.6 percent (nearly 1,900 students) between 2011 and 2012, the second annual decrease in a row.

·         The drop in postsecondary enrollment was larger (4.8 percent or 1,100 students) at institutions whose highest degree offered is an associate’s degree. Enrollment at institutions granting at least a bachelor’s degree fell by 1.7 percent (roughly 800 students). 

·         While GED completions fell a collective 10.4 percent across the peer metros, GED completions in the Louisville area remained relatively constant. On a per capita basis, the rank of the Louisville area in GED completions, which had dropped to 10th at the height of the recession, has now rebounded all the way to 2nd place among the peer metros.


“From a workforce development perspective, we’re encouraged to see the degree attainment increases for the key age groups of 25 to 34 and 35 to 44,” said Michael Gritton, executive director, KentuckianaWorks, “because these individuals have prepared themselves for the workforce and will remain workforce age over the next 20 to 40 years.


“Obviously, we would like to see GED completions also increase because this target population is critical for our community to reach and reengage in the education system,” he said. “But remaining constant in GED completions while our peer metros have shown decreases is a start in the right direction.”


“More people in Louisville have college degrees than ever before and we’re encouraged to see more adult learners going back to school,” said Mary Gwen Wheeler, executive director of 55,000 Degrees. “But with post-secondary enrollment experiencing a second year of declines, this Scorecard data is critical to helping us identify the strategies we need to continue to improve graduation rates, build an educated workforce and attract high-paying jobs to our area.” 55,000 Degrees is the public-private partnership committed to adding 55,000 more college graduates to Louisville by 2020.


The Scorecard also includes analysis of degree production in the vastly important STEM disciplines (science, technology, engineering, mathematics) and all healthcare areas – fields most directly related to long-term economic development.  The data come from the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System administered by the National Center for Educational Statistics.  Findings include:

·         On a per capita basis, Louisville has shown the best trend among the peer metros since 2004 in STEM field degrees. Louisville has moved up in the rankings for total degrees and all levels of degrees.

·         In 2012, the overall number of degrees awarded in the STEM fields in the Louisville area rose a modest 2.6 percent.  However, growth occurred at the uppermost degree levels – 44 more master’s degrees and 20 more doctoral degrees were granted in STEM fields in 2012 than in 2011, a combined 15 percent increase.

·         Degrees awarded in healthcare-related fields in the Louisville MSA increased just 3.6 percent in 2012, but outpaced the peer metros as a whole, which showed less than a 1 percent increase. The number of healthcare-related associate’s degrees awarded was up 15 percent in the Louisville MSA, and the number of degrees granted at the bachelor’s level and above increased 18 percent.

·         While the Louisville area recorded a marked drop in awards below the associate’s degree level (a decrease of 240 awards or 11 percent), the same type of drop occurred across most of the peer metro groups.

“Cities with a high percentage of educated workers skilled in STEM fields – Science, Technology, Engineering, Math - report higher wages, lower unemployment and less income inequality. We should recognize Louisville’s progress in increasing educational attainment and STEM capacity, but we must strategically build upon and accelerate this progress for long-term economic growth and competitiveness,” said Christen Boone, director of the Greater Louisville Project.

The Louisville MSA consists of Jefferson, Bullitt, Henry, Meade, Nelson, Oldham, Shelby, Spencer and Trimble counties in Kentucky and Clark, Floyd, Harrison and Washington counties in Indiana.


The 16 peer metro areas are Birmingham, Charlotte, Cincinnati, Columbus, Dayton, Greensboro, Indianapolis, Jacksonville, Kansas City, Lexington, Louisville, Memphis, Nashville, Omaha, Raleigh and Richmond.


KentuckianaWorks, an agency of Louisville Metro Government, is Greater Louisville’s Workforce Investment Board for the seven-county region including Jefferson, Bullitt, Henry, Oldham, Shelby, Spencer and Trimble. The board is composed of leaders from business, education, government and labor who work together with staff to provide strategic leadership for workforce development efforts in the KentuckianaWorks region. Funding is provided by the Workforce Investment Act, U.S. Department of Labor, through the Kentucky Education and Workforce Development Cabinet.


The Scorecard may be viewed online at For more information, contact Barry Kornstein at