New data from the U.S. Census for 2018 show long-term Kansas educational attainment levels have continued to improve.
The Census Bureau annually provides estimates for the Kansas population and the percentage of residents by age groups who have completed various levels of education. The 2018 report demonstrates that as Kansas school districts added programs and expanded their facilities, educational outcomes improved even as student demographics changed. Here are some highlights:
More Kansans ages 18 to 24 are completing high school, starting postsecondary education and completing four-year degrees
Kansans from age 18 to 24 are the most recent products of the public system. (About 90 percent of the Kansas school-aged population attends public schools.) Since 2005, the percent of residents in this age group who have completed high school or more increased from 84.3 to 89.4 percent; the percent who have any postsecondary education or credits increased from 51.9 percent to 59.2 percent; and those completing a four-year degree by age 24 increased from 9.7 to 11.1 percent – the highest ever.
Put another way, the number of Kansans in this age group increased by about 30,000 over the past 13 years, but the number who have not completed high school declined by about 10,000; the number with a high school diploma or equivalent only increased about 3,000; those with any college experience, whether or not a credential was completed increased by 30,000; and those completing a bachelor’s degree increased by 7,000.
Remember, these results include six years of student age group cohorts and lag several years. Kansans ages 18-24 in 2018 roughly include students in the graduating classes of 2013 through 2018. The 2005 group were roughly the classes of 2000 through 2005.
More Kansans over 25 and older have completed high school; have some postsecondary education, including technical certificates and associate degree; or have a bachelor’s degree or higher than ever before.
Since 1990, the percent of Kansans over age 24 completing high school increased from 89.0 to 91.0 percent; who will any postsecondary education, increased from 48.4 to 65.6 percent; and those with a four-year bachelor’s degree or higher from 21.1 percent to 33.0 percent.
In other words, the percent of older Kansans who have not completed high school was cut in half, from 18.7 to 9.0 percent. Those with a high school diploma but not postsecondary education of any kind dropped from 32.5 to 25.4 percent. Those with some postsecondary education, including one- and two-year technical certificates or those with credits but no degree stayed about the same, 21.9 to 22.8 percent.
However, those earning a two-year associate degree increased from 5.4 to 8.9 percent; those with a bachelor’s degree from 14.1 to 21.1 percent; and those with a graduate or professional degree from 7.0 percent to 12.8 percent over the past 18 years.
The new data extends long-term trends back to 1940, and Kansas exceeds the national average.
The U.S. Census provides information on high school completion and four-year degree completion back to 1940. Kansans have improved in both areas every decade and have done better than the United States average most years since 1940.
Less than 30 percent of Kansans had completed high school in 1940. In 2018, its over 90 percent, compared to the U.S. average of 88.3 percent.
Fewer than five percent of Kansans had a bachelor’s degree in 1940. In 2018, almost 34 percent have a four-year degree, compared to the U.S. average of 32.6 percent.
Long-term educational attainment has increased along with long-term educational funding, even as schools have more students with additional needs.
Although Kansas K-12 funding increased less than inflation from 2009 to 2017, long-term school funding trends since at least the 1970’s have risen faster than inflation. As a result, it is important to note that educational outcomes have also increased. The evidence is that “real” increases in funding (i.e. higher than inflation) allows districts to add staff positions and services to help students who are not being successful.
This shows that over time, school districts have expanded kindergarten and preschool programs, special education services, at-risk and bilingual education, alternative schools, health and nutrition efforts, including mental health, summer school and after-school programs, other targeted programs, and expanded school facilities.
As these programs were implemented, educational outcomes improved at the same time student populations changed. White students made up 84 percent of public- school enrollment in 1993 and 64 percent in 2019, with largest growth in Hispanics and multi-racial categories. Low income students eligible for free or reduced-price meals increased from 33.4 percent in 2001 to 47.2 percent in 2019.
Kansas English Language Learner students increased from 3.2 percent in 2000 to 10.6 percent in 2015. The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act passed in 1975, and today about one in six receive special education services. Special education students have increased 20 percent since 2000.
Kansas could not have improved overall educational attainment without improving results for these students who historically have lagged behind.