Driving Seamless Postsecondary Transitions in Kentucky

The state of Kentucky laid out a bold vision for itself, to “be a national leader in building a strong, sustainable and equitable economy through increased educational attainment and affordable, high-quality postsecondary programs.” 

The goal? 60% of Kentuckians with degrees and credentials by 2030. 

With its longstanding commitment to improving postsecondary attainment, and history of achieving measurable gains toward those goals, Kentucky has become a model for other states. Though there are many reasons for the success, five key factors stand out:

  1. Embedding postsecondary success initiatives across P-20 systems
  2. Building a coherent and comprehensive P-20 advising structure
  3. Continuously evaluating the efficacy of initiatives to improve attainment
  4. Increasing adult engagement in postsecondary education and training
  5. Tackling entrenched inequities in education and workforce outcomes


Embedding postsecondary success initiatives across P-20 systems

State leaders recognized that efforts to increase postsecondary attainment must be deliberate and collaborative. They tapped ESG as a strategic thought partner to support the Commonwealth Education Continuum (CEC)—the states’ P-20 Council—and help identify the correct levers to drive change across the various systems, and ultimately create a long-term strategic plan that would strengthen Kentucky’s education pipeline and address the statewide goal for students to have access and opportunity to earn degrees and credentials that lead to sustainable, competitive-wage careers.

ESG provided thought partnership on the development of the newly-formed CEC and is co-creating a long-term roadmap to sustain and grow the impact of the CEC; including prioritizing:

  • Successful Transition to Postsecondary
  • Early Postsecondary Opportunities
  • Educator Workforce & Diversity
  • 9th Grade On-Track
  • First Year Postsecondary Success

Building a coherent and comprehensive P-20 advising structure

Working collaboratively with the Council on Postsecondary Education (CPE)

and other stakeholders, ESG is developing a Statewide College & Career Advising Framework to guide advisors on the key goals and activities for advising students in each grade level and connect to available resources.

To ensure the framework is implemented with fidelity and sustainability in mind, ESG also provided strategic guidance to CPE as they launched the Kentucky Advising Academy (KAA), which provides a free comprehensive series of professional learning and resources for school counselors, Family Resource/Youth Service Center (FRYSC) coordinators, and all professional educators as well as flexible opportunities to connect with higher education and postsecondary advising leaders. 

ESG built an online toolkit—the College and Career Advising Toolkit— for advisors to access key resources for supporting students around postsecondary transitions, including developing high-level framework for organizing resources, ensuring operability with broader CCR portal, collaborating with regional coordinators to create targeted collateral for specific priority topics. 

Continuously evaluating the efficacy of initiatives to improve attainment

In addition to continually improving the quality of college and career advising, Kentucky was interested in evaluating the efficacy of its nascent initiatives to increase postsecondary attainment at the student level, including a Summer Bridge Grant Program and the Kentucky Advising Academy.

Summer Bridge programs are designed to ease the transition to college and support postsecondary success by providing students with the academic skills and social resources needed to succeed in a college environment. These programs occur in the summer “bridge” period between high school and college. Starting in 2021, CPE offered grants to institutions to launch and grow summer bridge programming.

ESG was tapped to analyze data to determine the impact of summer bridge programs funded by CPE grants on students’ matriculation and persistence and determine the return on investment of such programs.

Similarly, ESG plans to support the continued growth and evolution of the KAA by analyzing the impact of the initiative on advisors’ access to critical professional development and advising practices during its first two years. This analysis will help to identify gaps in professional learning to inform future content and provide recommendations for how to grow and strengthen programming.

Increasing adult engagement in postsecondary education and training

Kentucky participated in the second cohort of ESG and SHEEO’s Attainment Academy. In collaboration with CPE staff, institutional staff, industry and business leaders, and KYSTATS, ESG mapped existing assets and resources around adult attainment, and outlined a state policy agenda to increase adult engagement in postsecondary education and training, prioritizing three focus areas: Accessibility, Institutional Change, and Partnerships.

Tackling entrenched inequities in education and workforce outcomes

Kentucky is a member of the Launch coalition, a national college and career pathways initiative that strives for every learner to have access to and succeed in high-quality and equitable pathways. As manager of the initiative, ESG—along with  partners Advance CTE, ExcelinEd, JFF, and New America—provides Kentucky with support to “effectively deploy systemic levers” to “tackle entrenched inequities in education and workforce outcomes that have led to persistent gaps in outcomes.”

As a member of the cohort, Kentucky was awarded $100,000, and provided with site-specific support, including the ability to participate in curated academies on high-needs pathways topics, engage in a community of practice, receive partnership-specific coaching, and attend and in-person summit with participants from other LAUNCH sites.