Report: Education Metrics Worsen in Metro Detroit Over 5 Years

While the high school graduation rate in metro Detroit matches the national average at 85 percent, the share of the region’s high school students who are considered college-ready has decreased to 36 percent from 40 percent over the past five years, according to the Detroit Regional Chamber’s 2021 State of Education report.
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Education rates for youth and adults have decreased over the past five years in metro Detroit, according to the Detroit Regional Chamber. // Stock photo

While the high school graduation rate in metro Detroit matches the national average at 85 percent, the share of the region’s high school students who are considered college-ready has decreased to 36 percent from 40 percent over the past five years, according to the Detroit Regional Chamber’s 2021 State of Education report.

The new report defines “metro Detroit” as Lapeer, Livingston, Macomb, Oakland, St. Clair, and Wayne counties.

“The crises of 2020 made improving postsecondary education attainment that much harder, but all the more important,” says Sandy K. Baruah, CEO of the chamber. “Talent is the defining issue for business in the 21st century, and key to our region’s prosperity. The multiple crises our society continues to face lays bare how disparities in educational attainment have exponentially increased the challenge to our community and individuals. We have a long way to go.”

COVID-19 has caused total postsecondary enrollment in all institutions in Michigan to drop by 8.6 percent, which national data indicates a decrease of 21.7 percent of high school seniors matriculating to a two-year or four-year college, with these trends more pronounced for low-income students and students of color.

The report highlights how leaks in the region’s talent pipeline are impacting educational outcomes and is designed to inform leaders in business, education, government, and philanthropy as decisions are made about how to best rebuild the economy and create a more equitable society.

Postsecondary degrees and credentials such as certification in a skilled trade are an increasingly critical pathway to wages that can sustain families, contribute to the economic and social well-being of communities, and are necessary for employers to remain competitive.

Other statistics highlighted in the report include:

  • The region’s share of high school graduates who did not enroll in any postsecondary education has increased to 32 percent from 27 percent since 2014, with the city of Detroit increasing to nearly 50 percent.
  • Of students who pursue postsecondary education upon completing high school, 47 percent in the region have not earned a degree or certificate within six years of graduating. The city of Detroit is at 76 percent.
  • In the region, 41 percent of the population has an associate degree or higher, an increase over the past five years. However, this number reflects a lag among peer regions. Best-in-class regions, such as Minneapolis and Seattle, have roughly 53 percent of their population with an associate degree or higher.
  • Degree completion by adults 25 and older has decreased by 20 percent over the past five academic years.
  • Those with an education less than high school graduation are experiencing the highest unemployment amid the pandemic at rates four times greater than those with a bachelor’s degree or above.
  • Michigan’s disparity between Black and white graduation rates with bachelor’s degrees exceeds the national average and is the third highest in the nation at 21.9 percent.
  • About 86 percent of occupations that require a postsecondary credential offer a family-sustaining wage (just over $60,000 for a family of four), while nearly 83 percent of occupations earning less than $39,810 require only a high school diploma or have no requirement.

“There’s a direct correlation between level of education attainment and likelihood of avoiding unemployment as well as earning higher income,” Baruah says. “This report clearly demonstrates the equity gaps that will only be exacerbated by the prolonged pandemic. Many key indicators are trending the wrong way at a time when we need greater, better, and more collaborative efforts to increase postsecondary education access and achievement.”

The Detroit Regional Chamber’s goal was to see 60 percent of the region’s adult population have a postsecondary degree or credential by 2020, a goal that Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer has adopted for the state; the region is at 48.7 percent.

The chamber says achieving the goal would have significant economic impact; the 60 percent attainment goal has the potential to generate an additional $42 billion of income in the region.

In September 2020, the chamber announced the Detroit Regional Talent Compact through Detroit Drives Degrees. The initiative brings together stakeholders from business, philanthropy, government, and K-12 and higher education and offers a blueprint to achieve the 60 percent attainment goal and cut the racial equity gap in half by 2030.

“There’s no path to 60 percent attainment by 2030 without shifting the number of adults with some college credit to degree completion or closing the racial equity gaps in graduation rates,” says Greg Handel, vice president of education and talent for the chamber. “The State of Education report makes it clear that we are falling short, but the Detroit Talent Compact offers a blueprint for how employers can engage in achieving our regional attainment goals.”

The report was created with support from The Kresge Foundation in Troy, which funded the research by the University of Michigan’s Youth Policy Lab.

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