BY KARIN KAPSIDELIS
Virginia ranks ninth nationally in college attainment but faces “a troubling talent gap” in meeting future workforce needs at its current pace of awarding degrees, a report Thursday by the Lumina Foundation says.
About 45 percent of the 4.4 million adults between the prime working ages of 25 to 64 in Virginia held at least a two- or four-year college degree in 2011, with the Richmond metro area second behind Northern Virginia in the number of graduates.
However, education levels vary widely across the state, and at the current rate of degree production only about 54 percent of adults, or 2.5 million people, will hold college degrees in 2025, the report projects.
Jamie P. Merisotis, president and chief executive officer of Lumina, cites research from the Georgetown Center on Education and the Workforce showing 64 percent of all Virginia jobs will require postsecondary education by 2018.
“This means that Virginia is now facing a troubling talent gap and significantly more graduates are needed to meet future workforce needs,” Merisotis said in comments accompanying the report.
Virginia has set a goal of achieving an additional 100,000 associate and baccalaureate degrees by 2025.
Both the state and Lumina Foundation see as a source of additional degrees people who started college but didn’t finish.
According to Lumina’s report, “A Stronger Nation through Higher Education,” 20.7 percent of the adult population in Virginia fits that category.
Lumina’s goal is to increase the proportion of Americans with degrees, certificates and other credentials to 60 percent by 2025.
Nationally, 38.7 percent of working-age adults held a two- or four-year degree in 2011, up from 38.3 percent from 2010.
Virginia’s numbers also improved from 2010, when the rate was 43.9 percent and the state ranked 11th nationally.
The report points to the higher attainment rate among younger Virginians as a promising indicator. In 2011, 46.6 percent of Virginians ages 25 to 34 held at least a two-year degree, surpassing the national rate of 40.1 percent.
According to the report, the highest levels of college attainment for adults 25 to 64 were in the Washington-Arlington-Alexandria area, at 54.73 percent; metro Richmond at 40.49 percent; and Virginia Beach-Norfolk-Newport News at 38.55 percent.
Based on census data, college attainment rates by county ranged from more than 65 percent in Fairfax and Loudoun to 10.42 percent in Greensville and 13.45 percent in Sussex. Among cities, the rates ranged from 78.27 percent in Falls Church and 66.47 percent in Alexandria to 14.74 percent in Hopewell and 18.37 percent in Petersburg.
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