The Lumina Foundation, an independent, private foundation based in Indianapolis, Indiana, has released its 2017 report, “A Stronger Nation: Learning Beyond High School Builds American Talent.” The Lumina Foundation states that by 2025, 60% of Americans will need educational credentials beyond the high school diploma in order to achieve economic success and stability. This is due to the shift in national and global economies as the United States moves from an industrial economy to a knowledge-based economy.
The report analyzes education attainment in fifty states. Education attainment beyond high school includes technical certifications, associate degrees, bachelor degrees, graduate and professional degrees. Specifically, Montana has an overall attainment rate of 44% with a goal of 60% by 2020. The study finds that “Montana’s overall rate of educational attainment has increased by 6.4 percentage points since 2008” (http://strongernation.luminafoundation.org/report/2018/#state/MT). Yet Montana lags behind the national average of 46.9%.
The Lumina Foundation also tracks attainment levels for five racial and ethnic groups in the United States. The report focuses on groups whose members are between the ages of 25-64 and who report having earned at least an associate’s degree.
Montana falls short in education attainment for American Indians with 25.8% of American Indians attaining education beyond high school. The national average is 24%. The attainment rate for African-Americans in Montana is 28.1% (national average 30% attainment). The attainment rate for Hispanics in Montana is 35.3% (national average 21.9% attainment). For Asian and Pacific Islanders in Montana, the attainment rate is 51.5% (national average 61.7% attainment). The attainment rate for people who identify as White in Montana is 41.7% (national average 46.4% attainment).
The report also compares counties in Montana for attainment in order to help state and local leaders target where resources are most needed. This part of the study focused on people between the ages of 25-64 and have at least an associate’s degree. Yellowstone County, with a population of 158,437, has an attainment rate of 38.9%. Gallatin County, a population of 104,502, has an attainment rate of 55.2%, the highest in the state. Musselshell County, a population of 4,589, has an attainment rate of 19.8%, the lowest in the state (http://strongernation.luminafoundation.org/report/2018/#state/MT).
The report finds that although states are increasing their attainment rates, large gaps still persist especially in the attainment rates of African American, American Indian, and Hispanic groups (http://strongernation.luminafoundation.org/report/2018/#nation). The report asserts: “Because educational attainment beyond high school has become the key determinant of economic opportunity and social mobility, closing these gaps is crucial.” (http://strongernation.luminafoundation.org/report/2018/#state/MT). Given this data, Montana should invest its resources in closing the attainment gap in order to develop talent. This would then enable Montanans to achieve financial stability and strengthen the state’s long-term economic potential.