BATON ROUGE, La. – Progress towards meeting the state’s attainment goal of sixty percent of working-age adults holding a postsecondary credential by 2030 continues in the second year of implementing the Master Plan for Higher Education, despite disruptions from the pandemic as well as multiple hurricanes. Citing the 2019 Lumina Foundation Stronger Nation Report showing Louisiana slightly outpacing the nation in growth of postsecondary credentials awarded as well as improvements in reducing overall equity gaps, Regents stressed a clear connection between the state’s long-term recovery and increased levels of education and training.
“Recognizing that our attainment agenda has pivoted to encompass a robust recovery agenda is the key to our continued success and determination,” said Commissioner of Higher Education Kim Hunter Reed. “The urgency of now is to recognize that the real lesson learned in disaster response is that poverty is the enemy and education is the lifeboat. The only way we will disaster-proof, recession-proof or pandemic-proof our citizens economically is to get them the education and training they need so they can literally weather any storm. That is mission critical for us.”
“As we respond to and recover from multiple emergencies, we remember that educational attainment shapes our state’s economy, the prosperity of our citizens, reduces poverty, and gives our citizens the ability to adjust to and rebound from challenges,” said Board of Regents Chair Blake David. “In a time of profound disruption and uncertainty, I’m proud the Master Plan is serving as an anchor, highlighting the importance of our educational priorities to build a more prosperous and resilient Louisiana.”
Year Two Master Plan highlights include:
- College affordability is improving through historic investments in need-based aid (GO Grants), performance-based aid (TOPS), and establishment of the M.J. Foster Scholars program for adult financial aid.
- Educational attainment grew by .8%, from 47.3% in 2019 to 48.1% in 2020, slightly outpacing the nation’s growth for the first time since 2014. During the same period, the nation improved by .6% from 51.3% to 51.9%. For Louisiana to reach its goal of 60% of working-age adults holding a degree or credential by 2030, the state must achieve an overall 11.9% increase in attainment.
- Louisiana saw a dip of almost 500 college completers in 2021. If that declining trend continues, the gap between current degree/credential production and projected production needed to reach the state’s goal would widen to 21,306 completers. The state’s goal is to more than double the annual number of completers, to reach 85,000 by 2030.
- Slight equity gains were accomplished across several categories including total enrollment for African Americans, completion of postsecondary credentials by African Americans, and growth in the number of adults over the age of 25 earning an undergraduate credential.
- Commitment was sustained to initiatives that blur the lines between high school and college, including expanding access to dual enrollment.
- Investments of federal COVID recovery dollars were guided by a Digital Inclusion Strategic Asset Team assembled to address and understand the impact of the rapid shift to online delivery of courses as well as to lead overall efforts to erase the digital divide.
- STEM opportunities were prioritized and highlighted through the first-ever Research Summit as well as the creation of regional STEM centers to focus on future education-to-employment opportunities for women, underrepresented minorities, and underserved populations in high-demand fields.
To further develop the talent pipeline needed to meet the ambitious goal of the Master Plan in year three, Regents indicates it will focus on strategies to support student affordability and success, strategic regional engagement, education-to-employment analyses, proactive academic program planning, and a continued emphasis on student and campus safety.
“Meeting people where they are and getting them on the next rung of their lifelong educational journey is what we do,” said Commissioner Reed. “The 2020 and 2021 disasters didn’t cause the gaps we see in education in Louisiana, they illuminated them. Collectively, we as talent developers have the challenge and the responsibility of erasing them.”