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Originally published Tuesday, April 22, 2014 at 8:45 PM

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State beats U.S. average for adults with college degrees

A new national report says Washington’s college-attainment rate is above the national average, but the true picture may not be that rosy.


Seattle Times higher education reporter

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A new national report by the Lumina Foundation shows Washington’s college-attainment rate is better than the national average.

But because there’s not enough statewide detail, it’s hard to know if this report merely shows Washington businesses have been very successful at recruiting well-educated workers who grew up elsewhere.

Nationally, Lumina reports that about 38.7 percent of adults ages 24-65 have a two- or four-year college degree.

“Overall, the U.S. attainment rate has been increasing slowly but steadily; in 2008, it was 37.9 percent, and in 2009 it was 38.1 percent,” the report notes.

The goal of the private, Indianapolis-based foundation is for 60 percent of working adults to have a two- or four-year degree or other meaningful credential by 2025.

Washington’s rate is significantly better than the national average. Here, 43.3 percent of working adults have a two- or four-year degree; in King County, it’s 56 percent.

What the report doesn’t show is the number of Washington students who go to college after high school. That’s long been a worry for state educators, who say that Washington’s college-going rate for young adults lags the national average.

The reason for the state’s stellar showing on reports such as Lumina’s is often a reflection of Washington’s talent-importing machine. Businesses here are able to draw adults from other states — and countries — to work in booming high-tech companies, where a two-year degree at the very least is a must.

The Lumina report does show Washington falling behind national figures in some significant ways. Fewer than 19 percent of Hispanic adults in Washington, and 21 percent of Native Americans, have a two- or four-year degree. That’s slightly below the national average for both those groups.

And many rural areas are well below the national average. Fewer than one-quarter of all working adults in Grant, Adams, Franklin and Yakima counties have a two- or four-year degree.

Katherine Long: 206-464-2219 or klong@seattletimes.com. On Twitter @katherinelong.



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