Opinion

More work must be done with college-going rate

An editorial from The Times West Virginian

FAIRMONT, W.Va. — The importance of a college education can’t be ignored.

There are many reasons this is true, but two that stand out deal with unemployment rates and in-demand jobs.

Consider that the unemployment rate for people who have a bachelor’s degree or higher is 3.2 percent, while the unemployment rate for people who have only a high school diploma is 6.2 percent.

Also consider that jobs in technology- and health-related fields, including registered nurses and industrial engineers, are in high demand and offer competitive salaries. They also require a college degree.

Despite these statistics, a recent report shows that West Virginia’s college-going rate has declined in the past five years.

As reported by The Associated Press, the West Virginia Report Card says 55.9 percent of high school graduates enrolled in college in the fall of 2013, compared to 61.5 percent in 2009. The report goes on to say that in 2013, Monongalia County had the highest college-going rate at 68.1 percent. McDowell County had the lowest rate at 34.7 percent. Numbers for 2014 aren’t yet available.

In addition, the percentage of full-time freshmen who remained at West Virginia’s four-year public colleges after their first year dropped, from 76.1 percent to 74.7 percent, in the past five years.

Nationally, as reported by The Charleston Gazette, 65.9 percent of the roughly 3 million U.S. high school graduates in 2013 had enrolled in college by October of that year, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. The nationwide rate has dropped 4.2 percentage points since 2009, when it hit a record high.

The news isn’t all grim…

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