College Attainment Gains By State

Last month, I wrote about how college attainment rates are climbing nationally. But what about individual states?

In fact, every state has rising college attainment rates. A report over the summer by Ithaka S+R found that every state increased its college attainment rate from 2005-2017, led by especially strong gains in Maine, Iowa, and Indiana. The graph below shows the gains by state. (Click on the graph to see the larger image, or, better yet, go read the original report.)

Many states have set goals for future attainment rates, but, to put it mildly, those goals have been set without consulting historical trends. The state attainment goals–say, 60 percent of adults with a college degree by the year 2025–have tended to cluster right around the 60 or 70 percent mark, regardless of how close the state is to reaching those targets already. If states wanted to be smarter about how they set their targets going forward, they should be looking backward at their own recent progress and adjusting accordingly.

–Guest post by Chad Aldeman