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Idaho State News

Idaho Makes Big Jump in Higher-Education Attainment

Eric Tegethoff, Producer | Public News Service

Idaho and the rest of the country are making progress getting higher education to more people.

new report from Lumina Foundation finds nearly 54% of working-age Americans have earned a degree or certificate after high school, which the Foundation said is key to getting a good job in today’s economy.

Idaho is slightly below the national average, at about 52%.

Courtney Brown, vice president of impact and planning for Lumina Foundation, said the state achieved one of the highest gains in recent years.

“Idaho, Mississippi, South Dakota, Utah and Vermont, they had the largest percentage-point increase in attainment from 2019 to 2021,” Brown reported.

Idaho’s higher-education attainment rate climbed from about 46% in 2019 to 52% in 2021. While states have made progress, Brown explained there is still more they need to do to reach the organization’s goal of 60% of Americans earning a degree or certificate by 2025. The Idaho State Board of Education has also set the goal for people ages 25 to 34.

But the country has made immense progress since Lumina began collecting data on higher-education attainment in 2009. Brown cited a few reasons, including the fact states are putting a greater emphasis on these goals, and also how colleges and universities approach their students.

“More institutions are focused on the whole student and focused on today’s students, not just thinking about 18-year-olds straight out of high school, staying on a four-year campus,” Brown observed. “They’re really concerned about adult learners, and setting up programs for adult learners, ensuring that they’re serving them better.”

Brown also noted there is greater racial equity in higher-education attainment. Still, Black, Hispanic and Native American populations trail far behind their white and Asian peers. In Idaho, the Hispanic population fares the worst, with only about 21% having earned a degree or other kind of certificate in 2021.