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New Kansas Education Attainment Data Shows Mixed Outcomes

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TOPEKA, Kan. (KASB.org) – Educational levels for residents over age 24 reached new highs in 2021 and ranked among the top 20 states in the nation. Shorter-term measures for 18-24-year-olds were more mixed.

Educational attainment, reported by the U.S. Census Bureau, measures the highest level of education an individual achieves, such as less than high school, completing high school or the equivalent, or various postsecondary degrees.

Completing more education on average results in higher earnings, more employment opportunities and less chance of poverty. As a result, state leaders have made educational attainment part of the state’s top educational goals.

The Kansas State Board of Education’s Kansans Can goal to “lead the world in the success of each student” includes the outcomes of increasing high school graduation rates and increasing postsecondary educational attainment.

The Kansas Legislature adopted seven state education goals for “providing every child with at least the following capacities,” including “sufficient levels of academic or vocational skills to enable public school students to compete favorably with their counterparts in surrounding states, in academics or the job market.”

Recently released survey data from U.S. Census Bureau’s American Community Survey for 2021 show Kansas improved on most measures over the past decade. (No data was released for 2020 due to the pandemic.)

In 2021, for Kansans 25 and older, the percentage with at least a high school diploma or equivalent increased from 89.2% in 2010 to 91.9%. Those with “some college,” including a two-year degree or higher, increased from 61.4% to 66.5%, and those with a bachelor’s degree or higher increased from 29.8% to 35.4%.

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For Kansans aged 18-24, the traditional age for postsecondary education, high school completion rose from 85.9% in 2010 to 88.1% in 2021, and completion of a B.A. degree or higher increased from 8.7% to 12.5% – both the highest ever reported. But students with “some college” dropped slightly from 57.9% in 2010 to 56.3% in 2021. That percentage was over 59% in 2018 and may have been impacted by the COVID pandemic, which reduced college enrollment in Kansas. The data indicates fewer young Kansans attended postsecondary programs in recent years, but more completed a four-year degree.

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While Kansas has improved on most of these measures, other states are also improving, causing the state comparative ranking to fall in some areas. For Kansans 24 and older, high school completion dropped from 17th in 2010 to 18th in 2021; “some college” or higher remained level at 14th, and bachelor’s degree completion or higher ranking slipped from 15th to 19th.

For 18-24-year-olds, the high school completion ranking dropped from 18th to 21st; “some college” or higher dropped from 10th to 13th; bachelor’s degree completion or higher increased slightly from 21st to 20th.

Some important notes about this information: This data is from the U.S. Census Bureau’s “one-year” educational attainment estimates for 2021. It is based on surveys rather than data for every individual and has a margin for error. It does not ask about the completion of career technical certificates. Depending on the response, these may or may not be included in “some” college. Unlike graduation rates, test scores and other measures, this data is reported for individuals within an age range rather than a single year. Individuals aged 18-24 in 2021 would have been high school seniors between 2015 and 2021; individuals aged 25 and older would have been high school seniors before that.

Finally, this data refers to Kansas residents who live in the state each year. Kansas high school students who have moved to another state at age 18 or higher are not included; those who have moved to Kansas are included.

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