Starr Roberts is just the kind of smart young woman you’d want as a friend, a neighbor, or a coworker. She’s a senior at St. Catharine College, completing degrees in business and early childhood studies, and was elected student body president. But she almost didn’t go to college at all.
As a student at Louisville’s Valley High School, she didn’t know how to apply for admission or get financial aid for college. Plus, she had never heard of the small college near Springfield.
But in 2009, her senior year, the City of Louisville partnered with the local business community and Jefferson County Public Schools to create a program called Close the Deal, designed to guide soon-to-be-graduates through the process of pursuing higher education. Through Close the Deal, Starr found the support and resources she needed to begin an unexpected new journey to enroll in college.
“Time was getting closer and closer. Close the Deal helped me make the best decision, and I’m extremely blessed that St. Catharine College was able to be a part of this program,” said Starr. “I’ve accomplished a lot of my goals throughout the four years I’ve been at St. Catharine College.”
I visited St. Catharine College last year and talked with Starr about the extraordinary impact that Close the Deal made in her life. That’s when I knew it was time to take this program statewide.
We launched Close the Deal when I was mayor of Louisville, because we had so many talented students who would earn high school diplomas but had no idea what to do next. They didn’t know how to pursue higher education, whether through community college for a certificate or a two-year associate degree, or a traditional four-year university. These students had real potential, but needed some guidance in how to get to the next step of their educational careers.
Since 2009, Close the Deal has helped approximately 5,400 students in Louisville find a path to higher education they didn’t realize was in reach. Many of these young adults became the first in their family to attend college – like me.
It’s time for more high school students throughout the Commonwealth to have the same opportunity.
Partnering with Kentucky Department of Education Commissioner Terry Holliday, we are preparing to launch a state pilot Close the Deal program at Bullitt Central, Campbell County and Lawrence County High Schools. We are hopeful that additional counties will join the program next year.
Last month, we gathered all the partners in these counties – local elected officials, the education leadership and local chamber of commerce – to set the stage for the three kickoff events: Oct. 3 at Campbell County, Oct. 9 at Bullitt Central, and Oct. 22 at Lawrence County.
The Kentucky Department of Education has also added Close the Deal to the department’s Operation Preparation initiative. Operation Preparation combines the efforts of the Department of Education and the Department of Workforce Development to help students plan life after high school.
Our goal is to create a strong college culture in schools with lower college-going rates; to support high school counselors to more effectively assist students in college application and enrollment; and to engage business and postsecondary communities to assist students in establishing and meeting postsecondary goals.
Close the Deal goes hand-in-hand with the aggressive educational goals of Gov. Steve Beshear and First Lady Jane Beshear, who have worked tirelessly over the last five years to increase the level of education attainment for students across the Commonwealth.
Those efforts are paying off. Kentucky has improved faster than any state in the nation on key higher education performance measures, according to a report issued last fall by the National Center for Higher Education Management Systems.
The report ranked Kentucky ranked first among all states on three metrics, including the rate of improvement in the percent of working-age adults with college degrees, six-year graduation rates at four-year colleges and universities, and the number of undergraduate credentials awarded relative to the population with no college degree.
Education is a high priority for Gov. Beshear and our administration. We are confident that Close the Deal will be a tool to prepare Kentucky’s future workforce to fill high-playing, knowledge-based jobs.
We are excited about the possibilities and success Close the Deal will bring to high school seniors across Kentucky, just as it did in Louisville for Starr Roberts.
For more information about Close the Deal in Kentucky, visit my website at www.ltgovernor.ky.gov.