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Monday, July 28, 2014
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Editorial: State must increase number of college grads

Last Modified: Friday, June 28, 2013 5:28 PM

Yet another report has Louisiana ranked near the very bottom of a list. Now we’re hearing that we have a lower proportion of college graduates in our population than any other state except West Virginia. Among the state’s adults aged 25 to 64, only 27.9 percent held degrees in 2011.

In Calcasieu Parish, the percentage of adults with at least an associate degree is 27.98 percent. Of the state’s 64 parishes, only 11 parishes had a greater percentage than Calcasieu. St. Tammany had the most, at 38.60 percent. Tensas Parish had the least, at 11.84 percent.

The information comes from a report released June 13 by the Lumina Foundation, a private organization dedicated to increasing the number of Americans with two- and four-year degrees. The report measures progress toward Goal 2025, which is a national effort to increase the percentage of Americans with degrees to 60 percent by the year 2025. The report, “A Stronger Nation through Higher Education,” is available online at www.liminafoundation.org/newsroom/news_release/2013-06.

“Research tells us that 65 percent of U.S. jobs will require some form of postsecondary education by 2020, yet fewer than 40 percent of Americans are educated beyond high school today,” said Jamie P. Merisotis, president and chief executive officer of Lumina. “Our pace of attainment has been too slow and America is now facing a troubling talent gap.”

A case in point, says Merisotis, is that four out of every five jobs lost during the recent recession required only a high school education or less, and those low-skill jobs are dwindling quickly.

To say that Louisiana has a long way to go to reach a goal of 60 percent of its working population having degrees by 2025 is an understatement. At the current rate of degree attainment, only about 33 percent of the state’s adult population will hold a college degree by then.

That’s a problem when one considers that experts from the Center on Education and the Workforce at Georgetown University say that 51 percent of all Louisiana jobs will require postsecondary education by 2018.

One way to help things along, the Lumina report suggests, is to help the 22.7 percent of the state’s adult population who attended college but for whatever reason never obtained a degree. The University of Louisiana System is doing just that with a degree completion program — a Bachelor of Arts in organizational leadership degree designed for working adults who have already earned at least 60 hours of college credit and want to finish a bachelor’s degree.

Encouraging and helping these adults to complete degrees would go a long way toward having Louisiana reach the 60 percent goal by 2025.

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This editorial was written by a member of the American Press Editorial Board. Its content reflects the collaborative opinion of the Board, whose members include Bobby Dower, Jim Beam, Crystal Stevenson and Donna Price.

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