Effort to get more college degrees in city slows - WDRB 41 Louisville News

Effort to get more college degrees in city slows

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LOUISVILLE, KY. (WDRB) -- Louisville has set high goals to get more college grads, but the effort is going slightly in the wrong direction.  However, a course change may be underway.

The city's goal had been to add 55,000 college graduates by 2020, but because of a slight bump in the road, the mayor is asking more businesses to step up and help.

Tim Bowles is a machine operator at Universal Woods in the Bluegrass Research Park in Eastern Jefferson County.  He is headed back to college at JCTC to earn his degree. His employer is picking up the entire tab.  "As long as you keep a 'B' average they pay for your books, your tuition, just about everything," Bowles says.

The owner of the company says it makes good sense.  "Why do we do it," says Paul Neumann, "it is not altruism, it is good business."

"Continuous learning sparks continuous improvement, continuous improvement sparks improvement for what we do for a customer, and that drives growth in your business," says Neumann.

Mayor Fischer wants others like Universal Woods to step up.

That's after a report released Tuesday at Metro Hall by the mayor shows that the percentage of people in Louisville's workforce with college degrees has dropped from 40 percent in 2009 to 38 percent in 2011.  That is a setback to the goal of having half of the workforce with college degrees by 2020.

The mayor says, "Let's stay on our plan, let's keep our head down, let's ask more people to help us and let's keep working."

The executive director of the 55,000 Degrees organization says it is important for businesses to get involved.  "Many adults in the workforce have some college but for some reason stopped," says Mary Gwen Wheeler, "and they just need some encouragement and when their employer says this is important it makes them think again about going back to school."

The recent decline in degrees is blamed on the tough economic times and a lot of college-educated people leaving Louisville to find better paying jobs elsewhere.

"To reach our goals is not something where you can snap your fingers and declare victory," says the mayor, "it is a marathon and not a sprint."

So if more businesses would step up there will be more opportunities for workers like Tim Bowles.  "I want to be able to provide for a better life for me and my family," he says, "and education is the only way to do that."

And the community might once again be on the way to 55,000 degrees by 2020.

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