Ark. 49th again in percentage of adults with college degrees

LITTLE ROCK
Arkansas again
ranks 49th in the nation for the number of adults with a college education,
though more are seeking degrees than a decade ago, a state report shows.

The annual report by the Arkansas Department of Higher
Education shows only 19 percent of adults older than 25 hold at least a bachelor’s
degree, just behind Kentucky. The
study put West Virginia at 50th
with 15.9 percent.

A spokesman for Gov. Mike Beebe described the results as
“unacceptable,” saying the governor would work toward improving
Arkansas’ rating and economic fortunes.

“We can attract all kinds of jobs to the state, but we
need to have the work force available with the skills needed for those
jobs,” Spokesman Matt DeCample said. “At the same time, we need to
make sure we have the jobs available for students graduating, so that were not
just turning them out with degrees to go off to work in other states.”

However, the report shows 22,502 degrees and certificates
awarded by colleges and universities last year, up 49 percent from 10 years
ago. The department’s report, to be discussed at a meeting Friday at the
University of Arkansas at Fayetteville, acknowledges the state has made
“important strides,” though more needs to be done.

“We’re making improvements, but we still have a long
way to go,” said Ed Franklin, executive director of the Arkansas
Association of Two-Year Colleges.

The state’s 22 two-year colleges contributed the largest
percentage of degree gains from 1996 to 2006. The number of associate degrees
awarded was up 85 percent, from 2,840 to 5,259. The number of bachelor’s
degrees awarded by four-year schools increased 20 percent over the 10-year
period to 8,935 last year.

Larger gains were seen at the graduate level with 2,628
masters degrees and 222 doctoral degrees awarded in 2006, up 39 percent and 50
percent respectively from 1996.

Steve Floyd, interim director of the Arkansas Department of
Higher Education, said the state must try to make it easier for students to
transfer from two-year colleges to four-year institutions, increase the numbers
of teachers in math and sciences and better prepare high school students for
college-level work.

While Floyd is not concerned by the possibility of the state
slipping to 50th in the rankings a position Arkansas held in 2000, 2001 and
2004 he said making headway is a challenge as low-ranking states race to
improve.


– Associated Press



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