Let’s follow up some good education news — Georgia’s rise in its high school graduation rate — with some bad: Most Southern states lag not just the U.S. but other developed nations in college completion rates.
The report “The State of the South 2010“ by MDC, a nonprofit dedicated to improving educational and economic opportunities, ranks 13 Southern states in comparison with the 36 members and partners in the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development on their percentage of residents ages 25-34 with at least a two-year degree.
Eight states fall below the OECD average of 35.4 percent. With a rate of 35.7, Georgia is not among the eight, but our rate is still lower than the U.S. average of 41.6.
“For states and communities, a citizenry with a higher level of educational achievement has multiple pay-offs,” the report says. “For one thing, people who go beyond high school have a habit of avoiding poverty; people with some college education or better tend to figure out how to sustain themselves in the middle class. What’s more, the more parents are educated, the less likely their families and their children will fall into poverty; an aggressive offensive to increase the numbers of young people with degrees and credentials amounts to a frontal assault on intergenerational poverty.”
The South now has a “job gap” totaling 3.1 million jobs—the number of positions it would take to get back to 2007 employment levels. At the region’s best recent rate of job creation, it could take five years to recover.
Specific to Georgia, the report states:
–In Florida and Georgia, more than four out of ten students did not graduate from high school on time. In Arkansas only 20 percent and in West Virginia 27 percent of students did not finish high school on time, and yet in both states three out of ten high school graduates did not enroll in college.
In general, about 30 out of 100 once-9th graders in the South would not graduate from high school in four years. Roughly 26 out of 100 would graduate from high school but not go directly to college, and 14 out of 100 would enroll in college but not make it through their second year. Ultimately, only 20 out of those 100 once-9th graders would end up with a degree in four to six years of college.
–The South’s job gap amounts to 3.1 million jobs—in a national job gap of 11.3 million. If the nation added 321,000 jobs per month—the best average monthly growth in the 1990s—it would take nearly five years to erase the job gap. Florida, Georgia, North Carolina, and Texas rank in the nation’s top 10 job-gap states. There’s a growing postsecondary gap: in 2018, it is projected that 49 to 64 percent of Southern jobs will require some college, while states are producing postsecondary degrees at rates around 30 to 44 percent.
–Unemployment rates in Southern states for people 25-64 years old range from 10 percent to 22.4 percent for people without a high school diploma, 5.4 percent to 9.7 percent for people with some college or an associate’s degree, and 3 percent to 6 percent for people with a bachelor’s degree or higher.
–In general, the higher your educational attainment, the more you are likely to earn in annual income. Across the South, people with an associate’s degree can expect to earn from $6,700 to nearly $13,000 more than people in their own state with only a high school diploma. In Texas, the so-called “wage premium’’ for an associate’s degree is $12,800, in South Carolina $9,900, in Tennessee $9,400, and in Mississippi, the lowest in the region, $6,700. The premium for a bachelor’s degree compared to a high school diploma is even greater—from more than $24,000 in Virginia, to $21,500 in Georgia, to $16,500 in Kentucky and to $13,300 in West Virginia.
The AJC also has a story today about college completion rates: According to the story:
The University System of Georgia enrolls more than 310,000 students — an increase of more than 100,000 in the past decade. Behind that rapid growth lies a problem. Less than 60 percent of students graduate within six years.”Let’s be honest, that is an embarrassment,” said Willis Potts, chairman of the State Board of Regents. “If we take students’ money we have a moral and ethical obligation to do everything we possibly can to help them graduate. We haven’t been doing that.”
The regents ordered each college president to explain where their campuses struggle. They had to develop improvement plans, with most calling on graduation rates to improve by 1 percent a year over the next three years. The regents approved those plans earlier this month.
Potts said the next step is to research linking campus funding and presidential compensation to how well colleges meet their goals.