Higher Education Rankings: Measuring which state are the most educated
Half of the weighting in the education rankings goes to higher education. The metrics involved include the shares of citizens in each state holding college degrees, with wide variances found among the states and regionally. In Massachusetts, ranked No. 8 among Best States overall, half the citizenry holds associate degrees or higher. New England in general runs about 10 percentage points higher than Southwestern and Southeastern states by this measure. The rankings also take into account the time it takes students to complete both two- and four-year college programs, the cost of tuition and fees state by state and the burden of debt that college graduates carry. South Dakota has the highest percentage of students completing two-year college degrees within three years: about 61 percent. Vermont had the highest average college costs in 2016: about $15,000 a year. Wyoming had the lowest costs: about $4,175 per year.
Utah leaves the smallest debt burden on its college graduates, averaging less than $20,000 per student: New Hampshire leaves the biggest debt burden, more than $36,000 on average.
2-Year College Graduation Rate
This measure also allows for completion of a two-year degree within three years, or 150 percent of the normal time. And the data show that it generally takes students longer than that (if they finish at all), even in the states that rank among the top 10 for education. Roughly one-quarter of the students in those top-ranked states for education finish two-year programs within three years; the national average is slightly lower, at about 24 percent. South Dakota leads in this measure – with about 61 percent of students completing two-year programs in the same time frame.
4-Year College Graduation Rate
This measure allows for completion of a four-year college degree within six years, or 150 percent of the normal time of study. The national average is about 59 percent, and among the top 10 states in education, an average of about 63 percent of the college students meet this deadline. At the same time, the leader in this metric, Delaware, with about 75 percent timely completion of college degrees, is ranked 32nd for education in Best States. Regionally, the Far West, New England and Mid-Atlantic states rank highest. The data on timely completion comes from the National Center for Education Statistics.
The achievement of college degrees in any state is a measure of how well the educational system has prepared its citizenry for advanced study beyond high school and enabled students to succeed. The Census Bureau finds that the top 10 states in education in the Best States rankings have this in common: At least 38 percent of people 25 and older – and 50 percent in Massachusetts – hold associate degrees or higher. New England states generally lead in this measure, with 47 percent holding associate degrees or higher, and Southwestern and Southeastern states trail, 36 and 37 percent, respectively.
Low Debt at Graduation
The debt that college graduates carry with them is a measure of how much financial support, both public and private, is available for students pursuing higher education. In this case, the lesser the debt that graduates of four-year colleges carry, the higher the state ranks. Utah, ranked No. 3 among states overall, stands out as the leader in lowest debt for college graduates: averaging a little under $20,000 in 2016, according to the Institute for College Access and Success. New Hampshire ranked lowest in this metric, with an average college graduate debt of about $36,300 the same year. Graduate debt tends to run highest in New England, and lowest in the Far West and Mountain states.
Tuition and Fees
This is a measure of the average college tuition and fees required of in-state students at public four-year institutions. The lower the cost of a state-sponsored college education, the higher the state ranks., indeed among the highest in the nation, according to the U.S. Department of Education Statistics. Vermont, ranked No. 8 for education, had the highest average costs in 2016: $15,062. At the same time, the 15th-ranked state in education, Wyoming, had the lowest costs: $4,178. Regionally, tuition and fees tend to run highest in New England, lowest in the Mountain states.