The state of Utah has converged around the goal that 66% of Utahns will have skilled trade certificates or post-secondary degrees by 2020. Why the focus on 66%? That is what our future economy demands and what families will need to earn a living in our expanding economy. It is also a goal that contributes to the many intangible societal and personal benefits that accompany a commitment to education: greater civic engagement, better health, improved parenting, and greater job satisfaction to name just a few.
On Monday, Governor Gary Herbert held an education summit focused on the state’s 66% goal. Dr. Jeff Strohl from the Center on Education and the Workforce at Georgetown University pointed out that “access to a middle class lifestyle has plummeted for those without post-secondary education.” He says the world has changed. “Our economy,” says Dr. Strohl, “has fundamentally transformed from a high school to a post secondary economy.”
Commissioner of Higher Education, David Buhler, pointed out the greater earning potential that accompanies degrees earned and the associated decline in unemployment rate with higher levels of education.
Dr. Strohl said the demand for educated workers has exceeded the supply. “If we continue to under produce college-educated workers,” he says, “the large and growing gap between the earnings of Americans of different educational attainment will grow even wider.”
Consider the benefit to Utah’s economy if more of our citizens had higher degrees: Dr. Strohl estimates that wage income would increase annually by between $1.5 billion and $3 billion if 66% of Utah’s current non-degreed working population (high school graduates and those with some college) earned a degree.
Utah has seen growing commitment to this goal of 66%. The state is developing an unprecedented plan to make college accessible to more students, and remarkable collaboration will continue to expand opportunities for Utah students who are willing and ready to seize the opportunity.