The Kentucky Council on Postsecondary Education honored with the Stan Jones Legacy Award for its student success efforts and national model for college completion data

LAS VEGAS (DEC. 13, 2023) – The Kentucky Council on Postsecondary Education (CPE) is the 2023 recipient of the Stan Jones Legacy Award, Complete College America (CCA) announced during its Annual Convening. The Stan Jones Legacy Award recognizes an individual, organization or state that has consistently embodied the vision of Complete College America and worked toward achieving the goals of increasing the number of students who earn credentials of value while equitably closing institutional performance gaps. The award was established in 2016 to honor CCA’s founder and first president. CPE is the sixth recipient of this honor.

“Kentucky, among the earliest Complete College America Alliance states, has been a model for building internal state coalitions, implementing inter-institutional data practices, and successfully creating statewide support for college completion,” CCA President Yolanda Watson Spiva, Ph.D., said. “Kentucky shows that when states go all-in on the CCA approach, they get results and see completion gains.”

Led by President Aaron Thompson, Ph.D., the Kentucky Council on Postsecondary Education has centered much of its work around the state’s 60×30 goal to reach a postsecondary attainment rate of 60% by 2030. That goal includes a target to decrease institutional equity gaps for students who have been historically excluded from higher education. Under Thompson’s leadership, Kentucky has made historic investments in higher education, making its largest-ever budget allocations to the state’s colleges and universities, and CPE has achieved bipartisan support for its work among elected officials in the state.

Highlights of CPE’s Recent Work and Accomplishments

Kentucky Council on Postsecondary Education (CPE) Senior Vice President and Chief of Staff Lee Nimocks accepts the 2023 Stan Jones Legacy Award on behalf of CPE from CCA President Yolanda Watson Spiva.

Kentucky joined the CCA Alliance in 2011 and has since partnered closely with the organization in implementing successful completion strategies statewide. In 2021, CCA awarded a $550,000 grant, funded by Lumina Foundation, to CPE to advance CCA’s Purpose First strategy in Kentucky. The initiative has resulted in increased alignment between employer and workforce needs and postsecondary pathways in the Bluegrass State. Kentucky has also adopted the 15 to Finish campaign, a strategy developed by CCA, to encourage students to take at least 15 credit hours per semester or 30 credit hours per year to complete college on time. Kentucky Purpose First is administered by the Kentucky Student Success Collaborative, which was launched by CPE in 2021.

In CPE’s latest progress report, the state saw a 9.8% year-over-year increase in degree production in 2022. Kentucky has also seen retention increases at two-year and four-year public institutions. The state has also seen gains in completion that stand out against national averages, including completion rates for students starting at the state’s two-year public colleges. The six-year completion rate for students initially enrolling at colleges in the Kentucky Community and Technical College System is 47.8 percent, compared to a national average of 43.4%.

Kentucky has also been a national leader in using data to advocate effectively for and implement change in the postsecondary space. The state’s participation in the Postsecondary Data Partnership has been used as a model for other states to collect and analyze data to drive completion strategy.

CCA presented the Stan Jones Legacy Award to CPE at Future Ready, CCA’s 2023 Annual Convening, held in Las Vegas. The event brought together more than 1,000 professionals, policymakers, and practitioners focused on the college completion space.


About Complete College America: Complete College America (CCA) builds movements for scaled change and transforms institutions. Specifically, CCA drives systemic change that leads to better college completion rates; more equitable outcomes; and greater economic and social mobility, especially for historically excluded students. CCA operates at the federal, state, and institutional levels and works with its national network of forward-thinking state and higher education leaders. Since its founding in 2009, CCA and its network have introduced bold initiatives that help states and institutions implement data-driven policies, student-centered perspectives, and equity-driven practices. For more information, visit