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Achieving Higher College Attainment Is Critical to Nashville's Success

by Rebecca Leslie | Apr 06, 2012
CEOs for Cities’ research indicates that 58 percent of a city’s success, as measured by per capita income, can be attributed to the percentage of the adult population with a college degree. For this reason, CEOs for Cities, The Kresge Foundation and Lumina Foundation announced the $1 million Talent Dividend Prize that will be awarded to the metropolitan area that exhibits the greatest increase in the number of post-secondary degrees granted per 1,000 population over a four-year period. Fifty-seven cities, including the Nashville MSA, are actively engaged in college-attainment initiatives.

This week, I was proud to represent Nashville among 37 cities attending the CEOs for Cities Talent Dividend National Network Meeting in Houston to learn about best practices, discuss national trends and challenges, and build next steps for the future economic growth of our region and the country.

As a participant in the talent prize, the Nashville MSA receives benchmark data for our region from CEOs for Cities. In terms of college completion, the Nashville metro ranked 14th out of 51, with 32.2 percent of our 24-year-olds having earned a bachelor’s degree. The net domestic migration of adults with a bachelor's degree is also important; Nashville gained a net 3,426 skilled workers over the previous year, for a net migration rate of 1.3 percent.

One of the key areas of focus for the Nashville MSA is increasing the percentage of adults in our region who have a college degree. One way to achieve this is to encourage adults with some college to return to college to complete a degree. The high number of students who don't complete a college degree continues to be a challenge around the country. Nationally, more than 23 percent of adults aged 25 to 34 have some college, but no degree. According to the Chamber's most current workforce study, Nashville is on pace with this national trend; 23.6 percent of adults in our region have some college, but no degree. Some didn’t go to college to earn a degree, some are still working on a degree, but most are dropouts. We need to make it a priority to lower the college dropout rate, just as we have with high schools. Our post-secondary class attendance for adults aged 25 to 44 was 6.2 percent, which ranked us 44th of 51 metros that were measured.

Achieving higher college attainment is critical to both an individual’s well-being and the economic well-being of our community. A 1 percent improvement in college attainment is associated with a $763 increase in per capita income for the entire metropolitan area.

Category: Workforce