Special Report

Most Educated Metro Areas in the Country

The average cost of a college education in the United States is $35,720 a year — three times higher than it was two decades ago. Surging prices have led to unprecedented student debt levels totaling more than $1.7 trillion and may partially explain why college enrollment rates have fallen by nearly 2% a year since 2010. (This is the most expensive college in every state.)

Nonetheless, while a college education may not be for everyone, it remains a valuable asset that can offer better access to career opportunities, improve job security, and increase earning potential. Nationwide, an estimated 33.1% of American adults 25 and older have a bachelor’s degree or higher. Educational attainment rates vary considerably across the country, however, and in some major metropolitan areas, the share of adults with a bachelor’s degree is well above the national average. 

Using education data from the U.S. Census Bureau, 24/7 Wall St. identified the most educated metro areas in the United States. In several of the metro areas on this list, over half of the adult population have at least a bachelor’s degree. (Here is a list of how many people have had a college degree every year since 1971.)

Many of the metro areas on this list, such as Boston, New York, and San Francisco, are economic hubs with major industries that have been attracting college-educated professionals for decades. Others, such as Ithaca, New York; Raleigh, North Carolina; and Charlottesville, Virginia, are home to major research universities. These areas have large graduate school populations and often a concentration of employers seeking graduates for high-skill jobs. 

The average weekly wage for a college-educated worker in the United States is about 67% higher than it is for those with no more than a high school diploma. Additionally, college-educated Americans are less than half as likely to be unemployed as those who only finished high school. In most metro areas on this list, the typical household earns more than the national median household income of $65,712, and most have a lower five-year average unemployment rate than the comparable 4.5% national figure.

Click here to see the most educated metro areas in the country.
Click to see our detailed methodology.