Four years ago, the Kresge and Lumina Foundations built a competition on the observation that education is the single most important factor in driving metropolitan economic success. Research shows that about 60 percent of the variation in per capita personal income among large U.S. metropolitan areas is the fraction of the adult population that has earned a four-year college degree. Increasing educational attainment pays a big dividend to communities. On average, every one percentage point improvement in educational attainment is associated with a $835 dollar increase in per capita personal income. The participating cities also have strengthened their capability for local collaboration around these issues, which will likely pay additional dividends going forward.
The prize was awarded to Akron because it was the city which achieved the largest population-weighted increase in 2-year, 4-year and advanced degrees awarded between 2009-10 and 2012-13. (Four-year and advanced degrees are double-weighted in this calculation, reflecting their greater economic impact). Over the past three years, the 57 competing cities have increased the number of 2-year degrees by 69,000 and the number of 4-year degrees by 55,000. In the aggregate, the competing cities increased the number of degrees awarded by 7.6 percent more than their growth in population.
See the full table below, which shows the number of AA and BA degrees awarded by city in 2010 and 2013, each metro area’s population in those years, the points associated with the population-weighted increase in attainment, and finally, the increase over 4 years of that city’s degree attainment. The table is ranked by the percent increase column, but you can use the interactive table below to rank each city by any of the columns.