Study: Fewer than 40 percent of Alabamians hold degrees

UNA students march to the statehouse for a Higher Education Day rally Feb. 25. Student Government Association President-elect Sarah Green said 48 students represented UNA at the event.

In the halls of every high school in America are countless posters about the ACT and numerous colleges from across the country. To some students, it may seem higher education is the only option, but research suggests this is not the case.

While college seems to be broadcast as the norm in some parts of the country, the majority of Americans do not hold a degree, according to research by the Lumina Foundation.

According to the report, 40 percent of America’s workforce has an associate degree or higher. An additional 22 percent has some college, but no degree.

Over 95 percent of Americans said they think higher education is “somewhat or very important,” according to research from the Lumina Foundation.

Within that group, 73 percent of African-Americans and 67 percent of Hispanics said higher education is important compared to 56 percent of whites.

In Alabama, 33.6 percent of working-age adults hold a two- or four-year degree, according to the report. That puts Alabama about seven points behind the national average.

However, for every $1 Alabama legislature puts toward higher education, those graduates produce $12.50 in revenue. These statistics can make a difference in the amount of funds colleges in Alabama receive, said Student Government Association President-elect Sarah Green.

“I think that’s huge,” Green said. “When people see the financial impact higher institutions are putting into Alabama and it becomes real to them, it becomes more than just paper and numbers.”

Green said she thinks many people who graduate from colleges in Alabama are getting jobs in other states. She said she thinks Alabama needs more jobs so college graduates will stay in state instead of moving for work.

“That could be a problem,” she said. “We want to continue to fund higher education so we can fix that.”

Creating more jobs and providing more funds for universities could help keep graduates in Alabama.

“We need to fund higher education so that we can fix Alabama’s problems,” said Executive Director of the Higher Education Partnership of Alabama Gordon Stone. “We not only need more funding, we need a funding model.”

The Alabama state legislature currently does not have a funding model, said Vice President for Business and Financial Affairs Clinton Carter in a previous article.

The model is based on the previous funding amount each university receives.

Stone said the Higher Education Partnership wants legislature to give higher education one-third of the education budget.

“The last time we were funded to one-third was 1995,” he said.

He said he thinks funding higher education can create a better life for not only college graduates, but for Alabama as a whole.