SBR Research and Analysis: Education of Kansas 18-24-year-olds

From the Census

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, in 2015, 87.5 percent of Kansas adults under age 25 had graduated from high school. This makes Kansas 20th in the nation in terms of high school graduation rates.

In addition, 57.8 percent of 18-24-year-olds Kansans had some college or postsecondary education. This means they may have attended but did not yet complete a degree or certificate, or they earned a technical certification, an associates degree, or a higher degree. Kansas ranked 16th in the nation on this measure.

Of young adult Kansans, 8.9 percent had completed a four‐year degree or higher ‐ 30th in the nation. An estimated 36 percent of Kansas jobs in 2020 will require some postsecondary education.

This data alone doesn’t look too bad for Kansas, but it does when you compare the 2015 data to that reported for 2014.

Compared to 2014, Kansas attainment rankings for 18-24-year-olds have gone down considerably; from 18th to 20th for high school graduates, from 7th to 16th for those with some college or higher, and from 19th to 30th for those with a bachelor’s degree or higher.

If you look at the long term trends, Kansas high school completion by young adults increased 3 percent from 2005 to 2015, which is below the national state average of 5.6 percent. Kansas ranks 44th in the U.S. for the amount of change in this area.

For some postsecondary enrollment and completion, Kansas increased 5.9 percent, compared to the national state average of 9.3 percent, ranking 46th.

In four‐year or higher college completion, Kansas decreased 0.8 percent, compared to the national states average of an 0.8 percent increase, ranking Kansas 46th in growth.

The chart on the following page shows that the levels have actually changed very little since 2005.


According to KSDE, 71 percent of Kansas jobs in the near future will require a postsecondary credential; approximately half requiring a four-year degree or higher and the other half an industry credential or two-year associates degree. Approximately 90 percent of jobs will require at least a high school diploma.

Although current Kansas adult education levels are at an all-time high, they remain well below those levels, which means a higher percentage of young Kansans will need to graduate from high school and earn postsecondary credentials or degrees.

National Student Clearinghouse data, which goes back to 2010, shows that statewide in Kansas, approximately 65 percent of 2010 graduates were enrolled in some type of postsecondary program the first year after graduation (2010-11), and 35 percent were not enrolled in any postsecondary program. A very small number of students had completed a technical certificate or other credential in high school.

Six years later (2016), just under 40 percent of those high school graduates had completed a postsecondary program, and another 10 percent were enrolled in postsecondary programs but had not completed any credential. The remaining 50 percent had either never entered postsecondary programs or had dropped out without completion, or were part of a small number (about 3 percent) that are not tracked by the NSC because they opted-out under privacy laws, attended institutional that do not report to the NSC, or are in the military.

Using the same data, approximately 50 percent of students who graduated high school in 2010 were still enrolled in the second year out (2011-12) and five percent had completed a credential, most likely a one- or two-year technical certificate or a two-year degree. That equals a 55 percent “success rate” for high school graduates.

However, for the class of 2010, the “on time” or four-year high school graduation rate was 80.9 percent, so just under 20 percent of students did not graduate high school.

For the five years currently reported by KSDE, 2011 through 2015, the statewide graduation rate average is 85 percent; the success average is 52 percent and the effective average is 44 percent.

What does this data mean?

Kansas must continue to improve educational levels to meet employment and economic needs. By 2010, studies say 90 percent of Kansas jobs will require a high school diploma and 71 percent some level of postsecondary education; with about 35 percent requiring a four‐year degree or higher.
However, Kansas is beginning to fall behind other states. Kansas no longer ranks above the national state average and most similar states in educational attainment by young adults.

Kansas does well in graduating and getting students into college (top 20), but as of 2015 we are in the bottom half of the states when it comes to college completion for this age group.

Most alarmingly, Kansas ranked in the bottom 10 states in improvement in postsecondary attainment by young adults since 2005, suggesting that Kansas workforce is in danger of becoming less competitive with other states. This decline has occurred as Kansas school funding has also declined compared to other states.

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