Education

More students are graduating college. The bad news? Idaho still has a long way to go

U Of I studies examine go-on rates

University of Idaho President Chuck Staben discusses some studies that shed light on how to improve Idaho's Go-on rates to to college and other higher education options.
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University of Idaho President Chuck Staben discusses some studies that shed light on how to improve Idaho's Go-on rates to to college and other higher education options.

This story was originally published on IdahoEdNews.org on April 8, 2019.

The good news: Idaho’s postsecondary completion numbers are moving up, slowly.

The old news: Idaho still has a long way to go.

As Idaho continues to emphasize its elusive “60 percent goal” — a drive to convince young adults to continue their education beyond high school — let’s dive into the latest numbers from The Lumina Foundation. The Indianapolis, Ind.-based foundation is pushing a national 60 percent goal, with a 2025 target date that mirrors Idaho’s.

Some key Lumina findings for Idaho for 2017:

The bottom line, 40.7 percent. Idaho’s postsecondary completion rate. That’s the percentage of adults who hold a college degree or a professional certificate. And it’s a slight increase from 40.6 percent the preceding year.

Lumina tracks the numbers a little bit differently, looking at all adults from 25 to 64 years old. Idaho’s goal is focused only on 25- to 34-year-olds.

Any way you slice it, though, there’s a big reason why Idaho education, political and business leaders have made the “60 percent goal” their top education priority. They say a higher postsecondary completion rate will help Idaho adults compete for jobs in a growing economy.

Idaho lags in national rankings. That 40.7 percent rate is good enough to beat only three other states: Alabama, Nevada and West Virginia. (See the map, above.)

Nationally, the postsecondary completion rate comes in at 47.6 percent.

The national rankings aren’t just a matter of bragging rights. State leaders say a better-educated work force will also help Idaho compete in the new economy.

Demographic challenges linger. Here, Lumina measures only college graduation rates. The numbers don’t include adults who hold a certificate as opposed to a degree. But the news isn’t good.

Only 15.1 percent of Idaho’s Hispanic adults have a college degree of some kind. Only Arkansas and Nevada had a lower graduation rate. However, Idaho’s Hispanic graduation rate ranked last in the nation in 2016.

For another significant ethnic group, American Indians, the numbers are also grim. Only 15.3 percent of Idaho’s American Indian adults have a degree; only Alaska ranked lower.

Geographic gaps also linger. In Latah County, home to the University of Idaho, 57 percent of adults have a college degree of some kind. In Madison County, home to BYU-Idaho, 56 percent of adults are college graduates.

But in 10 rural counties, fewer than a fourth of adults hold a degree.

(For county-by-county numbers, see the map, below.)

This is a developing story. Check back for updates.

More reading: As Idaho pushes its “60 percent goal,” the state encounters obstacles rooted in economics, geography and culture. Click here to read our in-depth series from November, “Obstacles and Options: Building Paths Beyond High School.”

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