Educational attainment is critical to future success. For individuals, “educational attainment is a powerful predictor of well-being.” Higher levels of educational attainment are associated with higher wages, better health, and lower rates of unemployment.
For communities and employers, education is vital to ensure a workforce capable of meeting future job requirements. Georgetown’s Center on Education and the Workforce predicts that 67% of North Carolina jobs will require some form of postsecondary education by 2020. Specifically:
- 36% will require some college, an associate’s degree, or a postsecondary vocational certificate;
- 22% will require a bachelor’s degree; and
- 9% will require a master’s degree or higher.
North Carolina, like nearly all states, currently has average attainment levels below those required for the jobs of the near future.
These gaps do not reflect a lack of interest from current high school students, however. The 98,846 North Carolina high school students who graduated in the spring of 2015 were overwhelmingly committed to continuing their education. Ninety percent of female high school graduates reported that they planned to continue their schooling: half planned to go to a 4-year college or university and another 40% reported that they would go to a community college, junior college, or trade school.
Although male high school graduates were significantly more likely than their female peers to report plans for military service (7% vs. 2%) and post-graduation employment (13% vs. 6%), the majority (78%) still intended to continue their schooling. Thirty-nine percent of recent male high school graduates planned to enroll in a 4-year college or university and 38% reported plans to attend a community college, junior college, or trade school.
Among individuals continuing their schooling, most planned to stay in-state and attend one of North Carolina’s public institutions. Sixty-nine percent of all individuals going to a 4-year public college or university—30,700 graduates—reported plans to attend one of the UNC system campuses. More than 35,000 individuals, 93% of those who planned to attend community college, junior college, or trade school, intended to enroll at one of the 58 community colleges in the North Carolina system.
Of course, intentions to enroll are just the first step in the educational attainment process. Students must persist and eventually complete their education, and there are well-documented challenges on the pathway to college completion.