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More Michigan residents get college degrees, but state still trails diploma race

The share of Michigan adults with college degrees is at its highest point ever.

And while the state’s college attainment rate is still below the national average, Michigan is closing the gap, according to a report released by the Lumina Foundation examining college attainment in the nation and the 50 states.

Based on Census data, the report found that the percentage of Michigan residents aged 25-64 with an associate’s degree or higher has increased from 35.6 percent in 2008 to 41 percent in 2017. That puts Michigan 30th in the U.S.

Nationally, 42.4 percent had an associate’s degree or higher in 2017. Massachusetts led the nation, at 53.8 percent.

Michigan still behind

The percent of adults with a college degree – associate’s, bachelor’s or graduate degree – is lower in Michigan than the nation. If high-quality certificates are included, Michigan is even farther behind.

Rank State Percent
1 Dist. of Columbia 63.4
2 Massachusetts 53.8
3 Minnesota 50.8
4 Colorado 50.5
5 New Jersey 49.7
30 Michigan 41.0
  United States 42.4

When job-related post-high school certificates are included, 45 percent of Michigan adults have a post-secondary credential – up from 43.3 percent in 2014 and good for 32nd in the nation.

“We’re thrilled to see the number of Michigan residents with a high-quality credential beyond high school continue to increase,” said Brandy Johnson, executive director of the Michigan College Access Network, a Lansing-based organization that works to increase college readiness.

The report’s findings, “coupled with Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s pledge to make postsecondary educational attainment a priority for all Michigan residents, makes us even more committed to reaching our goal of having 60 percent of Michigan residents hold a degree or postsecondary certificate,” Johnson said.

Whitmer set a goal of 60 percent of adults with some kind of  postsecondary attainment by 2030 in her recent State of the State address.

Most job growth is in fields that require some type of postsecondary education. On average, college grads earn 56 percent more than those with a high school diploma.

Whitmer is proposing a broad expansion of college financial aid in an attempt to boost Michigan’s college attainment rates. The Michigan Opportunity Scholarship would essentially make two years of community college free for most recent high school graduates.

Gap narrows

Despite having a smaller percent of adults with a college degree, Michigan has closed the gap with the nation when looking at associate’s degrees and higher.


Source: Lumina Foundation


Other notes from the study:

  • Michigan’s rank among the states in percent of adults with an associate’s degree or higher rose from 32nd in 2008 to 30th in 2017.
  • The state remains below average in the number of adults who’ve earned a certificate and a bachelor’s degree or higher. In Michigan, 30.6 percent of working-age adults have a bachelor’s or higher, compared to 33.3 percent nationally.
  • The percent of adults with a degree ranges from 63.3 percent in Washtenaw County to 19.9 percent in Lake County.
  • There is a 16 percent college attainment gap between whites and blacks in Michigan (42 percent to 26 percent), matching a 16 percent gap nationally.

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