Why is College Attainment So Important?

No factor is more critical to the St. Louis region’s competitive position in the global marketplace than education. Economic development professionals report that firms evaluating St. Louis against other potential locations use college attainment as the key metric to gauge and compare the quality of the workforce. A top-ten ranking will set St. Louis apart from our competitors.

In today’s knowledge-based economy, fueled by talented people with 21st Century skills and competencies, the relationship between a college-credentialed workforce and higher median earnings is positive and direct.

Per capita and metropolitan incomes are both positively correlated with educational attainment. Using a methodology developed by CEOs for Cities, the annual increase in regional income associated with a one percent increase in college attainment in metro St. Louis is $2.4 billion.

Why It’s Important

Real, Tangible Benefits

Many firms in the St. Louis market are experiencing difficulty finding the right people with the right skills. A greater concentration of post-secondary degrees in the regional workforce will provide a stronger pool of potential employees for these companies.

Employers in key growth sectors increasingly look for four-year degrees to signify the skills and competencies needed for critical occupations. In the financial and information services cluster, for example, 80 percent of in-demand jobs are held by people with BA or higher degrees. In the health economy, 66 percent of employees in in-demand jobs have BA or higher degrees.

Firms with concentrations of degreed employees are more attractive to high-performing workers. Workplaces where college degrees abound attract talent with similar credentials, contributing to a culture of continuous learning and development that benefits the company and engages the people who work there.

Benefits Throughout the Community

Individuals and families benefit when more of our region’s breadwinners have completed college. Compared to those who did not continue education after high school, individuals who finished college have higher median incomes, lower unemployment rates, and more options for career advancement.

St. Louis area adults who responded to a Regional Chamber survey also said that completing a college degree gives them personal satisfaction and allows them to be positive role models to their children.
And the benefits of a college-credentialed workforce are shared within the broader population. The Talent Dividend Network estimates that per capita income in St. Louis will increase by $856 annually for every one percent rise in the concentration of college degrees.

The Business Case


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