In 1940, Utah was among the top five states in the nation for college graduates. By 2010, we no longer made that list. Our rate has gone up but our ranking has gone down.
Yesterday, the U.S. Census released a report entitled “Then and Now,” comparing American life between 2010 and the National Archive records from 1940 (also released this week). The report found college graduation has increased significantly over the past 70 years as the American Economy has grown and evolved. The bad news is, it has only reached just over 28 percent.
A few thing have changed in the American economy over the same seven-decade period. Today’s economy requires more highly skilled workers than ever before, and that number trend will only continue. Education is a critical component to our economy.
Utah’s college graduation rate in 1940 was 6.2 percent–one of the five highest in the nation. According to the 2010 Census, 29.4 percent of Utahns 25 and older have earned a bachelor’s degree or higher. So the good news is, a much higher percentage of Utahns are now earning college degrees than 70 hers ago, but our current rate leaves us nearly 10 points behind Massachusetts at 39 percent and over 20 points behind District of Columbia’s 50 percent.
Utah needs to reverse a 70 year trend of sliding down the list of college graduation rates, and we need to do it in the next eight years. Luckily, we have a plan.
The Salt Lake Chamber has joined 14 other chambers from across the state, as well as several other business organizations, to call for increased investment and innovation in education. The movement is called Prosperity 2020. By the end of this decade, we want 66 percent of all Utah adult to hold a college degree or skilled trade certificate. Prosperity 2020 is already working with legislators and education experts to apply proven business principles to strengthen education.
See what you can do by visiting prosperity2020.com or join us for our Education Forum on Thursday, April 5 at 8:00 a.m. at the Chamber office in downtown Salt Lake City.
By taking significant steps today, we can change the course we’re on and put Utah on a path to enduring prosperity. It all starts with education.
How has education impacted your career? How important to your business are well educated, highly skilled workers?