An educated population is one of the most important components of a vital, healthy state. In this light Virginia does quite well, increasing its citizens' level of education attainment in every category and surpassing the national average in high school and baccalaureate degrees or higher.
Why is This Important?
Educational attainment measures the level of education reached by people currently living in a particular area. It is a long-term indicator of the investment that a state or region has made in developing and attracting human capital. This indicator provides a "big picture" assessment of a state's or region's quality of life, workforce preparedness and economic potential.
How is Virginia Doing?
Virginia's educational attainment is slightly above the national average in terms of individuals with a high school education, but well above average for individuals with higher education. In 2011, Virginia ranked 27th in the nation for the percentage of its adult population (25 years or older) with at least a high school education, but 7th for adults with at least a bachelor's degree.
87.8 percent of Virginia adults had completed at least high school in 2011, exceeding the national average of 85.9 percent. Virginia's rate was higher than neighboring states Tennessee (84.2%) and North Carolina (84.7%), but lower than Maryland (88.9%). Montana led the nation with 92.3 percent of its adult population with at least a high school education.
The percentage of Virginia's adult population with at least a bachelor's degree has exceeded the national average for many years. Since 2002 it has increased from 31.7 percent to 35.1 percent in 2011; the national rate in 2011 was 28.5 percent. Comparing rates with peer states, Virginia is behind Maryland's rate of 36.9 percent, but above North Carolina (26.9%) and Tennessee (23.6%). Massachusetts again led the nation in 2011 with 39.1 percent of residents with a bachelor's degree or above.
Educational attainment increased in every region across Virginia between 2000 and 2007-2011 (see Data Note below). All regions increased both their high school- and college-educated population, with the Northern and Hampton Roads regions having the highest high school-educated population, and the Northern and Central regions having the highest college-educated populations.
What Influences Educational Attainment?
A number of factors influence educational attainment, including availability of educational services, the quality of those services, responsiveness of educational institutions to the particular needs of a community or region, affordability, regional culture, economic opportunity, and migration into and out of the state.
What is the State's Role?
The state's role is to:
- Ensure that adequate infrastructure exists.
- Provide programs that promote educational attainment.
- Provide career services and awareness of occupational-related education, skills, and training.
- Increase economic opportunity by facilitating a good business climate.
Data Definitions and Sources
American Community Survey
(updated annually in December)
2002-2011 figures are based on American Community Survey 1-year estimates.
U.S. Census Bureau
[2000 figures are from decennial census (updated with national census every 10 years); 2007-2011 figures are based on American Community Survey 5-year estimates between January 2007 and December 2011]
See the Data Sources and Updates Calendar for a detailed list of the data resources used for indicator measures on Virginia Performs.