Tuesday, December 19, 2000

Tristate lagging in rates for diplomas

Federal report compares states on graduations

By Ken Alltucker
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Education officials say a new federal report measuring high school and college completion rates of U.S. adults shows Ohio, Kentucky and Indiana need to do a better job of stressing education.

        While Greater Cincinnati adults are better educated than the average American, Ohio and Kentucky lag behind the national rate of obtaining a four-year degree. Indiana has the nation's lowest college graduate rate among adults 25 or older.

        And only West Virginia and Alabama have higher high school dropout rates than does Kentucky, where fewer than four of five adults 25 or older have completed high school.

        “All these figures are in disputable in telling us we need to do a better job,” said George Graves, spokesman for the Kentucky Council on Postsecondary Education. “Our high school graduation rate is too low. Our higher education rate is too low.”

        Nationally, the report showed that more Americans than ever are graduating from high school and college. The longtime gap in high school graduation rates between whites and blacks also continues to narrow.

        The Census report released today shows 86.4 percent of Greater Cincin nati adults 25 or older have completed high school and 27.7 percent have a bachelor's degree. That compares to the U.S. average of 84 percent finishing high school and 26 percent with a four-year degree.

        Ohio high school completion rate (87 percent) is better than the U.S. average but fewer students go on to finish a four-year degree (24.6 percent). That's the heart of the problem in Ohio, where residents haven't needed college degrees to get high-paying manufacturing jobs.

        “We do a better than average job in the percentage of our high school graduates, but we don't get a large enough percentage of those students to go on and finish college,” said Richard Petrick, vice chancellor of finance for the Ohio Board of Regents.

        Indiana's four-year degree rate (17.1 percent) is the nation's lowest, but its high school completion rate (84.6 percent) is slightly better than the national average. The Census report, based on a March 2000 population estimate, doesn't calculate two-year degrees or certificates from vocational colleges. It's separate from the Census 2000, an actual head count of U.S. population.

        Mr. Graves expects Kentucky's education reforms launched in 1997 will encourage people to pursue college. Now, about one in five Kentucky adults have a college degree.

        The highest education levels are found in San Jose, Calif., the heart of Silicon Valley, where 42.4 precent of adults have four- year degrees. Close behind is Washington D.C. (42 percent) and Boston (41.1 percent), another major technology area.

        The Ohio Board of Regents has committed $500,000 to spreading word of the benefits of higher education to Ohio's rural, impoverished counties as well as cities. It includes a bus that travels to school districts to hand out college and financial aid information.

        “We need to let these kids know the more you learn, the more you earn,” Mr. Petrick said.

        Washington state and South Dakota led the nation in graduation rates, each with 91.8 percent of adults completing high school.

        West Virginia posted the lowest high school completion rate, 77.1 percent.

        Gannett News Service contributed to this report.


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