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Kentucky Colleges Work To Capture High Schoolers' Attention

A Kentucky education agency wants to find new ways to attract high school students to attend college.

Kentucky Council on Postsecondary Education, or CPE, is a government-funded agency that helps coordinate efforts with public universities and community colleges. CPE President Aaron Thompson is touring the state to hear from various stakeholders, including students."We're not just focusing on what we can do immediately, even though we're trying to solve those middle-skills job areas," Thompson says. He says Northern Kentucky is booming and education is a long-term solution that will keep up with the growth.

Northern Kentucky University President Ashish Vaidya says the university wants to partner with companies like Amazon to fill the region's needs and recruit students. "Most of them are going to need preparation beyond high school," he says. "NKU wants to be that partner that says, 'How can we align?' " He says being the only university in this region with a global supply chain and logistics program sets them apart.

2017 CPE data shows Kentucky's in-state college attendance rate has fallen for the last three consecutive years.

Various stakeholders, including K-12 teachers, business and community members, attended the meeting to voice concerns and opportunities in the state.

One of those concerns is how public universities and community colleges prepare for incoming students. During the session, university officials say knowing how to navigate higher education is a challenge for most students.

Vaidya says universities haven't tackled all barriers students encounter, like ease of registering for classes, which could make a difference in students' experiences. "They're going to have to work hard in the classroom and outside the classroom but let's try and make some things easier in their journey," he says.

Anita Brown works in Pendleton County schools, which have a high low-income population. She says money is a big issue for her students. "People want to stay with their family," she says. "So, understanding what's available to them so that they can help themselves but also help their families."

Stakeholders say universities can improve on communicating what resources are available for students to attend trade school, community college or earn associate degrees.

The listening session was one of many tours the Kentucky education agency is making across the state. CPE President Thompson says once his tours are done, he will create an action plan to improve the state's efforts.

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