This article is a part of a monthly feature highlighting East-West Gateway’s Where We Stand series, which ranks St. Louis among the 50 most populous U.S. metropolitan areas (referred to as the peer regions) on topics of regional importance.
The growing number of adults obtaining higher levels of education is a promising trend in St. Louis. An increasingly popular choice is an associate degree. The typical associate degree is two years and often costs less than a four-year degree. This type of degree may be appealing to individuals who cannot commit to a four-year program or are wanting to enter into careers that do not require a four-year program. The region’s largest industry is health and social assistance, which offers many career opportunities to individuals with associate degrees.
From 2008 to 2018, St. Louis had the 5th largest increase among the 50 peer regions in the percentage of adults with associate degrees as the highest level of educational attainment. During that time, St. Louis had a 1.4 percentage point increase among this group of degree holders. The national average was slightly lower, with a 1.1 percentage point increase. Over the same period, many Midwest peer regions had similar increases as St. Louis.
The trend in associate degrees is also observed with other levels of higher education. From 2008 to 2018, St. Louis had the 22nd largest increase in adults with bachelor’s degrees or higher with a 5.8 percentage point increase and the 11th largest increase in adults with advanced degrees with a 3.4 percentage point increase. Both of these increases were larger than the national average increases of 4.9 and 2.4 percentage points, respectively.
The growth in adults with higher levels of education contributes to a skilled and knowledgeable workforce, increasing the competitiveness of the region. In addition to colleges and universities, the trend has been aided by local partnerships and collaborations, including two of this year’s Outstanding Local Government Achievement Award winners — the St. Clair County Head Start Apprenticeship Program and STL.works. These two organizations help connect people to opportunities outside of four-year degree programs.
About Where We Stand
Since 1992, EWG has produced Where We Stand to ignite discussion and help guide decision making on a range of topics important to the region. The Where We Stand series presents rankings for St. Louis among the 50 most populous metropolitan areas in the United States. You can Access more tables, data, and reports in the Where We Stand series at www.ewgateway.org/wws. To receive future updates, subscribe to the Where We Stand newsletter.