Good News. But Not Good Enough.

The most recent report from the Pell Institute for the Study of Opportunity in Higher Education gave us Ohio higher education advocates some hopeful news. Between 2005 and 2015, Ohio had the nation’s seventh-largest percentage increase of 25 to 64 year olds attaining bachelor’s degrees or higher. The 13 percent increase was only outdone by Oregon, South Carolina, North Carolina, Indiana, Tennessee and Kentucky, which topped the nation at a 17 percent increase.

Here’s the problem: Ohio is so far behind that reaching the national average attainment level in the next 10 years would require Ohio to nearly double that improvement rate. And while we did improve our national standing between 2005-2015, the “jump” was from the nation’s 37th highest college attainment rate to its 35th highest.

So we’re better, but still not great.

If we want to catch up with the nation’s top attaining state, Massachusetts? We’d need to improve our attainment rate over the next 10 years by more than 5 times the rate we achieved over the last 10 years. In other words, keeping the same improvement rate doesn’t move the needle a whole lot compared with the nation’s highest performing states.

The bottom line is this: We’ve seen nice improvement in degree attainment, but we have started from so far behind that we have to do significantly better to leverage a greater talent advantage over other states in the coming years. This is why we must insist on more meaningful state investment to improve Ohioans’ access to, and affordability of post-secondary options.