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States with the most graduate degree holders

  • States with the most graduate degree holders

    To some college graduates of a certain age, it can seem like everyone eventually goes back to school to get their master’s degree in something. The sheer volume of LinkedIn updates and Facebook posts from acquaintances who have been accepted to a new graduate program can make higher education seem commonplace. That may be the case for some social circles, but in reality, the number of Americans with graduate degrees is smaller than some might think. Just 12.6% of Americans 25 or older hold a graduate degree, according to the Census Bureau.

    Of course, that percentage varies wildly from state to state. Regions with many prestigious colleges and universities tend to have more graduate degree holders, while it’s more common to stop school after your high school diploma in traditionally rural or agrarian communities. To discover which states have the highest number of highly educated residents, Stacker consulted the 2018 American Community Survey from the Census Bureau and compiled a list of states with the most graduate degree holders using the one-year estimates in that data. All 50 states and the District of Columbia were then ranked by the percentage of residents 25 years or older with a graduate or professional degree. The percentage of residents with a bachelor’s degree, some college, high school diploma, and less than a high school diploma were also included, as well as the median income level for each degree.

    Whether you’re gearing up to apply to graduate school or have vowed never to take an aptitude test again, it’s eye-opening to see just how widely higher education levels vary across the United States. Keep reading to discover which East Coast state has the highest number of graduate degree holders nationwide and find out where your state falls on the spectrum.

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  • #51. North Dakota

    - Graduate or professional degree: 7.6% of residents 25 years and over ($64,310 median income)
    - Bachelor's degree: 22.1% ($50,976)
    - Some college or associate degree: 36.8% ($42,018)
    - High school diploma: 25.9% ($36,576)
    - Less than high school diploma: 7.7% ($29,625)

    With just 7.6% of North Dakota residents earning a graduate or professional degree, this Midwest state has the lowest level of graduate education in the United States. The state’s relatively small population combined with the fact that only 14 colleges sit within its borders—with just six schools offering graduate programs—likely led to its low ranking.

  • #50. Louisiana

    - Graduate or professional degree: 8.4% of residents 25 years and over ($57,058 median income)
    - Bachelor's degree: 15.9% ($50,273)
    - Some college or associate degree: 27.3% ($35,199)
    - High school diploma: 34.3% ($29,383)
    - Less than high school diploma: 14.2% ($21,282)

    Part of the reason Louisiana counts so few graduate degree holders among its residents could be from the relatively low difference in income between college graduates and people with a master’s degree or higher. The state also struggles with low retention rates for college graduates, which have been connected to negative perceptions of employment opportunities, quality of life, and government corruption.

  • #49. West Virginia

    - Graduate or professional degree: 8.5% of residents 25 years and over ($55,120 median income)
    - Bachelor's degree: 12.8% ($41,804)
    - Some college or associate degree: 26.8% ($31,250)
    - High school diploma: 39.7% ($30,250)
    - Less than high school diploma: 12.2% ($24,872)

    With 21 universities within its borders, West Virginia does not have a high level of graduate degree holders among its citizens. Nearly 40% of all West Virginia residents stopped their education after high school.

  • #48. Arkansas

    - Graduate or professional degree: 8.6% of residents 25 years and over ($61,185 median income)
    - Bachelor's degree: 14.7% ($46,919)
    - Some college or associate degree: 29.9% ($32,401)
    - High school diploma: 34% ($29,805)
    - Less than high school diploma: 12.8% ($23,899)

    Arkansas has 22 colleges and universities for prospective students to choose from, and less than a quarter of all Arkansas residents progressed beyond an associate degree. The state has been accused of cutting off support for higher education and instead focusing on K-12 education. The result has been lower-paying jobs that don’t incentivize additional degrees.

  • #47. Nevada

    - Graduate or professional degree: 8.7% of residents 25 years and over ($67,845 median income)
    - Bachelor's degree: 16.2% ($48,779)
    - Some college or associate degree: 34.3% ($38,018)
    - High school diploma: 27.7% ($32,039)
    - Less than high school diploma: 13.1% ($28,814)

    Nevada has just eight four-year colleges and universities in the state, and just 8.7% of residents earn a graduate or professional degree. The state has ramped up its efforts to improve access to education in recent years, increasing its per-capita spending on higher education by more than 30% since 2015.

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  • #46. Mississippi

    - Graduate or professional degree: 8.8% of residents 25 years and over ($55,339 median income)
    - Bachelor's degree: 14.4% ($42,497)
    - Some college or associate degree: 32.4% ($31,695)
    - High school diploma: 29.8% ($27,238)
    - Less than high school diploma: 14.6% ($21,680)

    Mississippi’s high-school graduation rates are above the national average, and nearly a third of its residents pursue an associate degree or some college education. But just 14% earn a bachelor’s degree and 8.8% earn a graduate or professional degree—the latter of which are rewarded with more than a $10,000 boost in their median income. Mississippi came in last in a January 2020 Wallethub ranking of most educated states.

  • #45. Oklahoma

    - Graduate or professional degree: 9% of residents 25 years and over ($58,154 median income)
    - Bachelor's degree: 16.7% ($46,162)
    - Some college or associate degree: 31.5% ($34,382)
    - High school diploma: 31.3% ($30,193)
    - Less than high school diploma: 11.6% ($24,881)

    Oklahoma’s government spending on higher education dropped by 26% since 2009, according to the Oklahoma State Regents for Higher Education. The state from 2012 to 2017 had the most drastic cuts in higher-education spending anywhere in the U.S.

  • #44. Idaho

    - Graduate or professional degree: 9% of residents 25 years and over ($61,876 median income)
    - Bachelor's degree: 18.7% ($44,469)
    - Some college or associate degree: 35.4% ($32,871)
    - High school diploma: 27.8% ($30,790)
    - Less than high school diploma: 9.1% ($26,050)

    In November 2019, Idaho enacted a statewide freeze on tuition costs for undergraduate college and university students at four-year institutions within the state. That, paired with budget cuts, is stressing an already scarce higher education budget expected to reach a $22 million shortfall within a few years.

  • #43. South Dakota

    - Graduate or professional degree: 9% of residents 25 years and over ($56,641 median income)
    - Bachelor's degree: 20.2% ($45,177)
    - Some college or associate degree: 32% ($35,984)
    - High school diploma: 31% ($31,037)
    - Less than high school diploma: 7.7% ($24,899)

    Enrollment at South Dakota’s six public universities has dropped by 5% since 2010, according to reporting from the Rapid City Journal. Meanwhile, resident enrollment in the last decade fell by 17%. That puts a distinct barrier before potential graduate-degree holders, which comprise just 9% of the state’s residents 25 and older.

  • #42. Iowa

    - Graduate or professional degree: 9.4% of residents 25 years and over ($67,140 median income)
    - Bachelor's degree: 19.6% ($51,620)
    - Some college or associate degree: 32.4% ($36,699)
    - High school diploma: 30.8% ($32,367)
    - Less than high school diploma: 7.7% ($29,980)

    Agriculture is such a big part of the economy in Iowa, it’s known as the Corn State. Though many of the top colleges and universities offer agricultural studies or management programs, Since 2013, Iowa cut funding for higher education by more than $180 billion. To compensate for the shortfall, tuition rates have risen—potentially contributing to the fact that more than 30% of Iowans stop school after high school graduation.

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