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Gov. Andy Beshear celebrates Kentucky's higher education enrollment data

Beshear hailed the report as great news for the state’s efforts to get more students in college classrooms.
Team Kentucky Update
Beshear hailed the report as great news for the state’s efforts to get more students in college classrooms.

Gov. Andy Beshear and university leaders are celebrating a recent report that says Kentucky colleges and universities have the highest total enrollment gains in the nation.

Enrollment in the state’s higher education institutions grew by 5.6% between 2022 and 2023, according to data from the National Student Clearinghouse.

The news comes during a legislative session where lawmakers are considering a bill that would ban diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) efforts on college campuses. A bill filed by Republican Sen. Stephen Meredith would prevent Kentucky’s colleges and universities from including what the measure describes as divisive concepts in any training, orientations, or workshops.

During a news conference Thursday, Beshear said legislators need to support students who come from disadvantaged backgrounds.

“We ought to invest into areas that haven't had enough investment and look for the areas, look for the groups, that haven't had enough investment over time to truly achieve,” Beshear said. "We ought to be that hand up to make sure everyone in the commonwealth of Kentucky has real opportunity to succeed.”

The measure also impacts public school systems across the state. Language in the bill would ban Kentucky’s K-12 public schools from advocating for, or spending resources or funds on “diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging.”

Advocates of DEI initiatives say it is necessary for students and staff to feel welcome in schoolsand close longstanding gaps between marginalized student groups and more socioeconomically advantaged peers.

Although Gov. Beshear can veto the measure if it becomes law, Republicans in the state House carry a veto-proof majority.

Eastern Kentucky University President David McFaddin said at the same news conference Thursday that in the past year enrollment at his school has grown by 5%, in part due to support for students. “Our overall enrollment increase since 2020, over 7%,” McFaddin said. “Just this past year, 5% overall enrollment growth for EKU. It’s because we have focused on access, we’ve focused on affordability, we’ve focused on student support services.”

Kentucky ranked second nationally in undergraduate enrollment growth and fourth nationally in graduate enrollment growth.

In a release, Kentucky Council on Postsecondary Education President Aaron Thompson said the data shows Kentucky’s education system was prepared to bounce back following a decline in student registration caused by the pandemic.

Data from the report also shows community colleges are a major driver for student registration and healthcare programs are beginning to increase in enrollment following declines during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Jacob Martin is a Reporter at WKU Public Radio. He joined the newsroom from Kansas City, where he covered the city’s underserved communities and general assignments at NPR member station, KCUR. A Louisville native, he spent seven years living in Brooklyn, New York before moving back to Kentucky. Email him at