December 7, 2022

Morton & McCartney: what is a degree worth?

By Joe Morton and Tim McCartney

How can a student graduate from high school without being college or career ready? This happens every year for 12-16% of our students in Alabama.

For the classes of 2020 and 2021, Alabama’s graduation rate was 92% and the college and career readiness rate was 76% (a gap of 16 percentage points). For the Class of 2019, the graduation rate was 93% and the college and career readiness rate was 80% (a gap of 13 percentage points). For the Class of 2018, the graduation rate was 90% and the college and career readiness rate was 75% (a gap of 15 percentage points).

What signal does it send to business and industry when 16% of Alabama high school graduates weren’t ready for college and careers last year? Business and industry aren’t just major funders of Alabama’s K-12 system. They are K-12 education’s biggest customers.

Typically, when students leave high school, they continue their education in a two- or four-year educational program, join the military, or pursue careers in business and industry. Closing the gap between college and career readiness and graduation rates is also important for Alabama families.

Parents want their children to graduate from high school with the skills to excel in academic and career paths. The Alabama State School Board, on the recommendation of State Superintendent of Education Dr. Eric Mackey, will vote Sept. 8, 2022, on a resolution to pass a new administrative code rule requiring all students to obtain the least one indicator of college and career readiness prior to graduation, beginning with the Class of 2028.

Over the past year, the Alabama Workforce Council (AWC) and the Business Education Alliance of Alabama (BEA) have made progress working alongside Governor Ivey and the Alabama State Board of Education to improve outcomes of our students.

By working together, we have achieved several political victories for our children. In January 2021, the Alabama State Department of Education submitted amendments to the Alabama Every Student Succeeds Act state plan to include new school readiness indicators. college and career to complete a career and technical education program and to participate in a youth school apprenticeship, which was a concept pioneered by Governor Ivey.

The changes were approved by the U.S. Department of Education and expanded college and career readiness indicators to include:

What is a degree worth?

1. Note that the university is ready in at least one subject on the ACT
2. Earning a silver or higher score on the WorkKeys assessment
3. Achieve a passing grade on an Advanced Placement Examination or International Baccalaureate
4. Succeed in obtaining a vocational technical education diploma
5. Earn credits for dual enrollment at a college or university
6. Successfully enlist in the military
7. Complete a CTE study program
8. Complete school-based learning for youth

In April 2021, the Alabama State Board of Education adopted a Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) Completion Policy, which resulted in an increase in the completion rate of the Alabama FAFSA from 51% for the class of 2022 to a rate of 60% for the class. of
2023 – and that’s only August.

The BEA released a new report in January 2022, titled Forging Alabama’s Future: Improving Education Attainment and Workforce Development. The report offers eight practical goals to increase the number of students who start school ready to learn, read and count academically and graduate from high school prepared for college and career.

Closing the gap between the college and career readiness rate and the graduation rate has been a priority for the BEA for several years. Governor Ivey has been a champion in closing the gap between college and career readiness and graduation rates throughout her tenure as governor, and the AWC has called for closing the gap. as one of his 10 points on K-12 education since 2020.

There is nothing more important to the AWC, BEA, and the State of Alabama than the success of our K-12 students. Just as they acted decisively last year to increase FAFSA completion with a well-balanced policy, we ask the Board to do so once again in September by passing an administrative rule code change requiring that students achieve at least one college or career readiness indicator prior to graduation.


Tim McCartney, formerly of McCartney Construction in Gadsden, is the president of the Alabama Workforce Council. Dr. Joe Morton is President of the Business Education Alliance of Alabama and former Superintendent of Education for the State of Alabama (2004-2011). To learn more about the Alabama Workforce Council, visit To learn more about the Business Education Alliance of Alabama, visit