High Demand Labor Sectors and College Enrollment: A Preliminary Analysis of the Work Ready Kentucky Scholarship (WRKS)
Year of Publication
Martin School of Public Policy and Administration
Master of Public Administration
Dr. Rajeev Darolia
States have taken a variety of approaches to improving educational investment in the labor market and increasing educational attainment statewide. One such approach is the idea of target sectors – identifying high demand and high growth industries to direct business and educational investment across the state. Since 2011, the Commonwealth of Kentucky has utilized target sectors to identify high demand high wage occupations in order to drive labor force participation, employment, and educational alignment. To combat projected employee shortages in the identified target sectors and low educational attainment across the state, Kentucky launched the Work Ready Kentucky Scholarship (WRKS) program in 2016 to financially incentivize educational investment in programs that created a clear pathway to employment in a target industry sector. While existing literature has found some benefit to incentivizing enrollment and aligning curriculum with occupational outcomes, there is little research that identifies a causal relationship between offering a scholarship program and increases in the identified sector’s enrollment. In this paper, I examine the impact of the Work Ready Kentucky Scholarship (WRKS) on enrollments in target sector programs at the 16 colleges in the Kentucky Community and Technical College System (KCTCS). Using panel data from academic years 2014 to 2018, I estimate a fixed effects regression model. Overall, results suggest that the implementation of WRKS has had a minimally positive effect on increasing the number of students enrolled in target industry sector programs. However, given research limitations due to data availability, the findings of this paper should not be taken as conclusive but rather supplementing the narrative and motivation for providing such a scholarship. The results demonstrate that further research is needed to isolate the impact of the Work Ready Kentucky Scholarship program on target sector enrollment as it continues into its fourth year. If these results confirm that the Work Ready Kentucky Scholarship has in fact, had a minimal effect on increasing total sector enrollments, policy changes may need to be considered around scholarship redesign and/or marketing.
Frost, Jillian, "High Demand Labor Sectors and College Enrollment: A Preliminary Analysis of the Work Ready Kentucky Scholarship (WRKS)" (2020). MPA/MPP/MPFM Capstone Projects. 395.