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ND, Minn., workers rank high in education

GRAND FORKS -- North Dakotans and Minnesotans are among the states with the highest educational attainment in the country, according to a report by a private foundation focused on education.

With 44.7 percent of the working-age population holding at least a two-year college degree, North Dakota is No. 10 among the states, the Lumina Foundation report said. That rate in Minnesota was 46.6 percent, making the state No. 3.

The national average was 38.7 percent.

Steven Light, University of North Dakota associate provost for undergraduate education, said the state needs a highly-trained, highly-capable and flexible workforce to meet the needs of its changing economy. The university itself has been focusing on retention through several initiatives, such as first-year seminars and student research opportunities, he said.

"As things change in the state, you need folks who have the information technology skills, the professional degrees, people with cultural skills that we normally associate with the liberal arts, all of those for a successful transition to a new economy," he said. "This report just underscores that we need to continue moving in that direction."

The Lumina Foundation report, released last week, provides higher education attainment rates for adults aged 25 to 64 in every state based on 2011 U.S. Census data and other sources. As more and more jobs in the state and nationwide require academic degrees, the foundation is encouraging the nation to reach a 60 percent attainment rate by 2025.

If the current rate of degree production continues in North Dakota, 54.2 percent are expected to have a degree by that time, according to the report. In Minnesota, that projection is 58 percent.

Grand Forks County, at 48.1 percent, is among counties in the state that with the highest education attainment.

Here's how the states compared:

- No. 1 Massachusetts: 50.8 percent.

- No. 2 Colorado: 47 percent.

- No. 3 Minnesota: 46.6 percent.

- No. 10 North Dakota: 44.7.

- No. 48 Arkansas: 28.2 percent.

- No. 49 Louisiana: 27.9 percent.

- No. 50 West Virginia: 27.8 percent.