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In February 2009, President Barack Obama set a goal of the U.S. having the highest proportion of college graduates aged 25-34 in the world by the year 2020. Holders of both associate and baccalaureate degrees count. Last month, the U.S. Department of Education broke down how many graduates each state would need to contribute for the nation to reach Obama’s goal.
Using as a baseline the proportion of college graduates aged 25-34 living in each state as of 2009, the Department called for most states to have between 45 and 60 percent of their populations holding degrees by 2020.
The projections aren’t perfect, of course—among other things, they’re based on the number of college graduates living in a given state, not the number of graduates a state is actually producing. Thus, there’s no way to account for individuals who earn their degrees in one state but move to another.
Even so, the projections provide a snapshot of how far the U.S. has to go. The Department set targets for each state, noting that “if every state makes its contribution at the midpoint of the ranges shown, the United States will again lead the world in college attainment by the end of the decade.”
The map below shows the percentage change required in the number of college graduates aged 25-34 in each state for the country to reach Obama’s goal. (The percentage change was calculated using the midpoint of the target ranges provided by the Department of Education.)
Alaska—where just 29,566 residents, or about 4 percent of the state’s population, had college degrees as of 2009—needs to more-than-double its number of college graduates in the next decade to hit Obama’s target. By contrast, the District of Columbia—where nearly 12 percent of residents hold degrees—needs to increase its number of college graduates by less than one percent.
Click on individual states for detailed information.