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Report: New York ranks 11th nationwide for college attainment

By Journal Staff


New York ranks in the top 15 nationwide for college attainment, but the pace of progress is “far too modest” for the state to meet its future-workforce needs, according to an Indiana organization that wants more Americans to hold college degrees and certifications.

New York is listed 11th on the list at 44.6 percent. Massachusetts ranked first, and states ranking ahead of New York included New Jersey, Connecticut, New Hampshire, and Virginia.

The rankings are part of a report from the Indianapolis, Ind.–based Lumina Foundation, released June 13.

The Lumina Foundation is an independent, private foundation that describes itself as “committed to increasing the proportion of Americans with high-quality degrees, certificates, and other credentials to 60 percent by 2025,” according to its website.

The initiative is called Goal 2025, Dewayne Matthews, vice president of policy and strategy at Lumina, said in a June 13 conference call about the report.

“The origins of it were four years ago in Lumina’s first strategic plan when we set the national goal and said we would focus our work on this idea that the U.S. needed to increase higher-education attainment rates to 60 percent,” Matthews told The Central New York Business Journal during the conference call’s question-and-answer time.

Attainment is a population statistic that indicates “the proportion of the population that holds a college degree, either a two-year or a four-year college degree,” Matthews said.

The report, entitled “A Stronger Nation through Higher Education,” found 44.6 percent of New York adults (aged 25 to 64) held a two- or four-year college degree in 2011, the most recent year from which data are available.

The figure compares with the U.S. attainment rate of 38.7 percent.

The New York number is up from 2010 when the rate was 44.1 percent and New York ranked 9th nationally. In 2009, New York’s attainment rate was 44.6 percent, according to the Lumina Foundation.

The Syracuse–metropolitan region ranks fifth among New York’s six largest areas with an attainment rate of 43.91 percent. The Albany–Schenectady–Troy region is ranked first among the regions with a rate of 49.27 percent

The list also includes the Rochester region ranked second at 47.72 percent; the New York–Northern New Jersey–Long Island region ranked third at 46.01 percent; the Buffalo–Niagara Falls region ranked fourth at 44.82 percent; and the Poughkeepsie–Newburgh–Middletown region ranked sixth at a 42.76 percent attainment rate in 2011, according to the Lumina report.

Research from the Georgetown Center on Education and the Workforce indicates 63 percent of all New York jobs will require post-secondary education by 2018, Jamie Merisotis, president and CEO of Lumina, said in a news release.

It means that New York is facing a “troubling” talent gap and needs “significantly more” college graduates to meet future workforce needs, Merisotis said.

The U.S. college attainment rate was 38.7 percent, which represents an increase compared to the previous two years, something Lumina sees as “significant,” according to Matthews.

The 38.7 percent attainment rate represents a 0.4 increase from the 2010 data, up from 38.3 percent. The latest rate is also up from 38.1 percent in 2009, and 37.9 percent in 2008, according to Matthews.

But, while the attainment rate is “steadily” increasing, it’s not increasing nearly enough, Matthews said.

 “To reach an attainment rate of 60 percent by 2025, the U.S. attainment rate does need to increase much more rapidly than it is right now,” Matthews said.

In gathering the data, Lumina looks at the adult population of the U.S., those aged 25 to 64 “that are in the prime, kind of working age population of the U.S. and simply look at how many of them hold a two-year or four-year college degree,” Matthews said.

The source of this data is generally the American Community Survey from the U.S. Census Bureau, Matthews says.


Reaching the goal

Lumina earlier this year released a strategic plan outlining how the foundation will work over the next four years to help move the country closer to reaching Goal 2025.

The plan includes strategies to design and build a higher-education system for the 21st century, and to mobilize employers, policymakers, institutions, state and local leaders.

The strategies include creating new models of student-financial support, developing new higher-education business and finance models, and creating new systems of quality credentials and credits defined by learning and competencies rather than time, according to Lumina.

The mobilization strategies focus on building a “social movement” to support increased attainment nationwide that includes working with employers, metro areas, and regions to encourage broader adoption of Goal 2025, the organization said.

It also includes advancing state and federal policy for increased attainment, and mobilizing higher-education institutions and systems to increase the adoption of data- and evidence-based policies, partnerships, and practices, according to Lumina.


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