Significant Statistics | Utah Has the Third-Highest Educational Attainment in the Nation

Written by: Staff

The latest data show that Utah’s post-high school attainment rate is 61.1%, well above the national average of 53.7%. We are the third highest in the country.

Educational attainment is defined by the highest level of education achieved. The benchmark of attainment rate includes the share of individuals who received meaningful education beyond high school graduation. This includes college degrees, but also high-quality certificates and certifications.

The proportion of a state’s residents with higher levels of education could benefit households, employers, and the state as a whole. Since 2009, Utah has increased its attainment rate for associate, bachelor’s, graduate, and professional degrees from 39.2% to 47.3%. The data suggest that some of this growth is fueled by younger Utahns achieving higher levels than their predecessors.

The goal for educational attainment has broadened in recent years. Lumina Foundation (a nonprofit focused on increasing educational attainment in the United States) began including high-quality short-term credentials as post-high school educational attainment. Work-relevant certificates were added 2014. They were followed in 2018 by industry-recognized certifications that have “lead to further education and employment.”

Since Lumina began calculating work-relevant certificates, the share of Utahns with a certificate as their highest level of educational attainment has increased from 6.0 % to 9.2%. Similarly, since Lumina began calculating industry-recognized certifications, the share of Utahns with certifications as their highest level of educational attainment has increased from 4.3% to 4.6%.

While Utah’s third-in-the-nation status and its rapid improvement is impressive – to 61.1% by 2021 – this attainment rate did not reach the state’s 2010s goal to have reached 66% by 2020.

When looking at the graph below, Utah seems to be pulling ahead of the U.S. Why? In large part due to Utah’s population make-up. We have more young people – with more educational attainment – entering the workforce than that proportion for the U.S. generally. The high proportion of young, more educated Utahns bodes well for Utah’s future. 


       Note: Certificates were added in 2014 and certifications were added in 2018.
       Source: Lumina Foundation.

The data in this Significant Statistics are from the recent A Stronger Nation release by the Lumina Foundation.

This post was written by Research Intern Joseph Wirthlin with assistance from Research Intern Marguerite Spaethling and Utah Foundation staff.

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