Frequently Asked Questions


Q: What is 55,000 Degrees?

A: 55,000 Degrees is Greater Louisville’s education commitment to adding 55,000 postsecondary degrees by the year 2020 increasing from one third to one half the percentage of Jefferson County residents holding an associate or bachelor’s degree. Since 2010, we have worked closely with our partnering organizations, businesses, faith-based communities, and higher education institutions to create a network of people highly invested in increasing Louisville’s college-going and completion culture.


Q: Where did you get the number 55,000?

A:  Our goal is specifically comprised of 40,000 bachelor’s degrees and 15,000 associate degrees, for a total of 55,000.This represents the total number of degrees necessary for Louisville to move into the top tier of peer cities in terms of education attainment, with 40% of the adult workforce holding bachelor’s degrees and 10% holding associate degrees.


Q: How many degrees have been added so far?

A: The number – 55,000 – is more of a symbol or proxy for the main outcome we seek: an increased percentage of college-educated working-age adults in Louisville. Our annual progress report shows an increase in that percentage of 2.4 percentage points in the last year.  However, the percentage of college-educated adults is not yet on track with our goal.


Q: How are you tracking these degrees?

A: We use the One-Year U.S. Census Bureau American Community Survey to track the educational attainment of the local population. We also look at the number of degrees produced by our local postsecondary institutions.


Q: Do you track only Jefferson County, or do you look at a wider region?

A: We monitor Louisville, as it is the most feasible area of focus, but we recognize that we are part of a regional marketplace that relies on everybody doing well. We partner with organizations and schools in neighboring counties and in Southern Indiana.


Q: Do you track only associate and bachelor’s degrees? What about graduate degrees and certificates?

A: While we report only associate and bachelor’s degrees, the areas in which Louisville is currently the most lacking, the message is that all postsecondary education is important. The better educated our populace, the more opportunities individuals have and the greater prosperity for the community.


Q: By pushing college degrees, don’t you discourage students from pursuing well-paying trades and vocational certifications? 

A: In today’s knowledge economy, every student must be prepared for postsecondary education beyond high school, whether it is an apprenticeship in a trade, industry licenses and certifications, or diplomas and degrees. We focused on associate and bachelor’s degrees because that is where Louisville has the greatest shortage, but we recognize that there may be other paths to career success.


Q: Do you want to see increases in specific “valuable” degrees, or just increases in the number of degrees in general?

A: We believe that every degree has the potential to be valuable both to the individual obtaining it and to the Louisville community at large. At the same time, the 55K partnership is increasing its attention and research into which credentials have greatest labor market value.


Q: Will there be jobs available following the completion of these degrees?

A: Getting a college degree is not a guarantee for employment. However, statistics have consistently shown that employees with college degrees have been more successful in finding and keeping work than those who with only a high school degree or lower.


Q: As a student, what can you do to help me?

A: By taking the Count Me In! pledge, we can connect you to critical information about things like scholarships, ACT prep, college fairs, FAFSA completion, and more. You can also be connected to our networks, which have specific focuses like 15K Degrees, and the Hispanic/Latino Student Success initiative, all of which offer targeted information focused on students’ success.


Q: Do you offer any scholarships/money/financial help?

A: 55,000 Degrees has an updated local scholarship database and also connects students to resources that help with the financial commitment of college through our newsletters and our website. However, we do not offer any scholarships or other forms of financial aid directly to students.


Q: Where do you get your funding?

A: The 55k Partnership is funded through the generous donations of both local and national sponsors, such as Brown-Forman, the C.E.& S. Foundation, The Community Foundation of Louisville, the Gheens Foundation, the Humana Foundation, the James Graham Brown Foundation,  JPMorgan Chase& Co., and the Lumina Foundation.


Q: Are other cities doing this as well?

A: Yes. Several other cities are pursuing similar initiatives, making it all the more important that we reach our goal in order to compete in an increasingly interconnected economic environment. 55,000 Degrees is in several networks of like-minded cities that share ideas and best practices, such as Business-Higher Education Forum, CEOs for Cities’ Talent Dividend, and National League of Cities Communities Learning in Partnership.


Q: I’ve obtained my degree, but I’ve been unable to find a job. Can you help me?

A: Your college or university most likely has a career center that would be able to assist you. Additionally, we recommend that you contact the Career Center at KentuckianaWorks for help finding a job following your completion of college.


Q: I’ve defaulted on a student loan and cannot return to school until it is resolved. Can you help me?

A: Unfortunately, 55,000 Degrees is unable to provide specific financial assistance. We recommend that you contact the Career Center at KentuckianaWorks and the Kentucky Higher Education Assistance Authority for help.


Q: How can I get involved?

A: There are many ways to get involved with 55,000 Degrees’ efforts. For example, by signing a Count Me In! pledge you can help us move closer to our goal of 55,000 degrees. You could also volunteer as a tutor or mentor to someone on the path to a college degree. Even something as seemingly small as reading to someone can make a difference.