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Education Lab Blog

Education Lab is a project to spark meaningful conversations about education solutions in the Pacific Northwest.

April 22, 2014 at 5:00 AM

We’re a well-educated state — but why?

Illustration by Gabriel Campanario / The Seattle Times

Illustration by Gabriel Campanario / The Seattle Times

A new national report by the Lumina Foundation shows Washington’s college-attainment rate is better than the national average.

But because there’s not enough state-wide detail, it’s hard to know if this report merely shows that Washington businesses have been very successful at recruiting well-educated people, who grew up elsewhere, to work here.

Nationally, Lumina reports that about 38.7 percent of adults ages 24-65 have a two- or four-year college degree. “Overall, the U.S. attainment rate has been increasing slowly but steadily; in 2008, it was 37.9 percent, and in 2009 it was 38.1 percent,” the report notes. The foundation’s goal is for 60 percent of working adults to have a two- or four-year degree, or other meaningful credential, by 2025.

Washington’s rate is significantly better than the national average; here, 43.3 percent of working adults have a two- or four-year degree, and in King County, the number is 56 percent.

What the report doesn’t show is the number of Washington students who go to college after high school. That’s long been a worry for state educators, who say Washington’s college-going rate for young adults lags the national average. The reason for the state’s stellar showing on reports such as Lumina’s is often a reflection of the state’s talent-importing machine; businesses here are able to draw adults from other states (and even other countries) to work in booming high-tech companies, where at the very least, a two-year degree is a must.

The Lumina report does show Washington falling behind national figures in some significant ways. Fewer than 19 percent of Hispanic adults in Washington, and 21 percent of Native Americans, have obtained a two- or four-year degree. That’s slightly below the national average for both those groups.

And many rural areas in the state are well below the national average. Fewer than one-quarter of all working adults in Grant, Adams, Franklin and Yakima counties have a two- or four-year degree.

Screen shot from the Lumina Foundation's report.

Screen shot from the Lumina Foundation’s report.

Comments | Topics: higher ed

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