Special Report

The Most Educated City in Every State

A larger share of Americans than ever before have gone to college and earned a degree. According to data released this month by the U.S. Census Bureau, 32.6% of Americans 25 or older have a bachelor’s degree as of 2018, a slight increase from the 32.0% share in 2017. 

This increase comes even as the cost of attending college continues to rise. A large share of Americans are well aware of the risk of college debt — over 44 million Americans today have outstanding college debt. But the value of attaining a bachelor’s degree for many remains important enough that millions of Americans still choose to take on debt to earn a degree.

The average American adult with a bachelor’s degree earns about $24,000 more per year than the average adult with just a high school education. In addition to a higher earning potential, a college education also has many intangible benefits, including critical thinking skills, exposure to new ideas, and a formative social experience. 

24/7 Wall St. reviewed the share of adults with a bachelor’s degree at the metropolitan area level, using data from the U.S. Census Bureau’s American Community Survey, to identify the most educated metro area in each state in 2018. Bachelor’s degree attainment rates range widely between the metro areas on this list, from 23.3% to 62.5%. 

A common characteristics of many of the metropolitan areas on this list is the substantial presence of colleges and universities. The majority of the 50 metropolitan areas on this list have at least 10 postsecondary institutions — including the Boston metropolitan area, which has over 120. 

In several of the metro areas on this list with only a handful of colleges and universities, those institutions tend to be large and are a substantial presence in the metro area. This is the case, for example, in Corvallis, Oregon, which is relatively small but is home to Oregon State University. Here is a list of the 30 best college towns in America

Many of the cities on this list also have a large regional presence large employers in STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) fields and other careers that require a bachelor’s degree as a bare minimum. These cities include Austin, San Jose, Seattle, Columbus, and Minneapolis.

Educational attainment and income are related in a number of ways. Those with a college degree are more likely to be employed in higher-paying professions — including in STEM fields — and are more likely to have steady employment. The majority metro areas on this list have median annual household incomes above the national median of $61,937, and many rank among the wealthiest in the country.

It should be noted that in the case of four states — Delaware, Vermont, New Hampshire, and Rhode Island — there is only one metropolitan area and therefore these rank as the most highly-educated in the state by default. Just because a city ranks as the best educated in its state does not mean it is well-educated relative to the nation as a whole. In eight states, the most educated metro area is home to a smaller share of adults with bachelor’s degrees than the 32.6% national share. Here is a rank of all 50 states based on college attainment.

Click here to see the most educated city in every state
Click here to read our methodology

Correction: An earlier version of this article incorrectly stated that Corvallis, Oregon was home to the University of Oregon. It is in fact home to Oregon State University. 

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