By on 2.27.20 in Carolina Demographics, Education

In February, we partnered with myFutureNC to launch a statewide attainment dashboard to serve as a shared, nonpartisan source of information about the state of education in North Carolina. The dashboard tracks proven indicators along the education continuum, capturing key transition points for students from NC Pre-K enrollment through degree or credential completion and into the labor market.

On the dashboard, you’ll find a simple, visual way to learn more about individual indicators, including how we calculated the data and why each indicator is important to the state’s overall attainment goal of having 2 million North Carolina 25-44-year-olds with a postsecondary degree or credential by 2030. (Related: Learn more about the statewide dashboard.)

Over the next few months, we’re going to dig deeper into the indicators on the dashboard, providing you with greater context and understanding for where North Carolina’s students sit at each part of the educational pipeline. Before we look at individual indicators, we need to examine North Carolina’s overall attainment goal.

Where did North Carolina’s educational attainment goal come from?

In 2009, the Lumina Foundation set a national goal to increase the percentage of Americans with high-quality postsecondary degrees, certificates and other credentials to 60% by 2025. Driven in response to workforce projections from the Georgetown Center for Education, the foundation urged states to develop their own individual attainment goals, along with supporting policies and practices.

By 2018, 42 states had set individual goals; North Carolina was one of eight states that did not yet have a goal. Leaders in education, business, faith-based, and nonprofit communities, as well as the state General Assembly and the Governor’s office came together to launch a statewide discussion about educational attainment, workforce development and economic competitiveness. This group became the myFutureNC Commission and, supported by state and national funders, set a goal to produce 2 million 25 to 44-year-olds with postsecondary credentials or degrees by 2030.

Today, myFutureNC is a non-profit dedicated to achieving this goal. According to the Call to Action, the numeric target reflects the Commission’s desire…” to set an ambitious goalpost to spur that change.” Specifically, by achieving the 2030 goal, the Commission documented that the state would exhibit attainment growth that exceeds the maximum growth observed in any state over the past decade. Currently, 1.3 million (or 49%) of residents have met the specified attainment level; approximately two-thirds of them have earned a bachelor’s degree or higher, whereas the other third holds either an associate degree or high-quality credential. Projections indicate that by 2030, 1.6 million (or 54%) of 25 to 44-year-olds will hold a degree or credential, meaning that the state will fall short of their goal by 400k.

The attainment goal set for the State of North Carolina is ambitious in three key ways: First, North Carolina has set one of the highest overall goals in the South – to achieve 2 million graduates with postsecondary degrees or credentials, roughly 66%, by 2030. Secondly, the plan developed by myFutureNC also stipulates that each county will have attainment goals. Finally, myFutureNC, in partnership with Carolina Demography, resolved to monitor progress on a broader set of education goals, referred to as indicators, focusing on key transition points along the education continuum. Specifically, while the overall attainment goal is targeted towards working-age adults, the indicators chosen to track span the continuum from birth to early career.

These indicators cover a wide range of measures including ones directly associated with educational status, such as the percentage of children enrolled in North Carolina Pre-K as well as ones more indirectly related to educational attainment, such as the percentage of 35 to 44 year-olds earning a family-sustaining wage. Each of these indicators, as well as their target and current levels, are available through the myFutureNC educational attainment dashboard.

While most states have set their own individual attainment goals, they differ by goal thresholds, targeted population ages, and indicators monitored. Additionally, not all states publish progress towards their goals through publicly available data dashboards. The chart below showcases some participating Southern states’ specific educational attainment goals as well as links to any available data dashboards, and additional indicators monitored.

Available dashboards at the state level include Tennessee and Arizona.

As illustrated above, virtually all participating Southern states have set their educational attainment goals at 60%, matching Lumina’s minimum national goal. Only Virginia, with 70%, has exceeded North Carolina’s statewide goal of approximately 66% (2 million) of 25-44 year-olds with postsecondary degrees or credentials by 2030.

North Carolina’s unique specification of their targeted age range builds in a strong level of accountability. MyFutureNC, through the attainment dashboard, intends to illuminate information regarding demographic and geographic differences on both the overall educational attainment goal, as well as the specific indicators when possible. The need for postsecondary training and degrees is compounded by the differences that exist for people of different racial, economic, and geographic backgrounds.

Looking at key education transition points (the indicators) allow researchers and policymakers to understand where certain subpopulations may exit the continuum and subsequently develop targeted state and local programs and policies.

Through a series of blog posts over the next several months, Carolina Demography will provide more depth and information on the indicators selected by myFutureNC and explain their relevance and importance to certain subpopulations, as well as the overall attainment goal in general.

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