Report: Virginia college attainment rate improves, but ranking drops

RICHMOND, Va. (AP) - Virginia has dropped one position in a higher education advocacy group's national ranking for college attainment, despite an improvement in the state's attainment rate.

The Lumina Foundation report ranks Virginia 10th nationally for college attainment, based on 2012 census data. That's down from ninth in 2011, the Richmond Times-Dispatch reported.

The foundation's report, "A Stronger Nation Through Higher Education," said 45.3 percent of Virginia's 4.4 million working-age adults ages 25 to 64 held a two-year or four-year college degree in 2012, compared to 45 percent in 2011. The national rate for 2012 was 39.4 percent.

The Washington-Arlington-Alexandria area had the state's highest rate at 55 percent, up from 54.7 percent in 2011.

The Richmond region's rate was 41.14 percent, up from 40.49 percent in 2011. Virginia Beach-Norfolk-Newport News was third at 39.3 percent, up from 38.5 percent.

While Virginia's college attainment rate improved, there were gaps by race, the report found. Sixty-six percent of Asians have a degree, compared with 49 percent of whites, 29.4 percent of blacks, 30.8 percent of Native Americans and 28.4 percent of Hispanics.

In 2012, 46.7 percent of Virginia residents ages 25 to 34 held at least a two-year degree, compared to the national rate of 40.9 percent.

Virginia is moving in the right direction but needs to build on the momentum to meet future workforce needs, Lumina President and CEO Jamie P. Merisotis said in a statement accompanying the report.

The foundation is pushing for a national attainment rate of 60 percent of adults holding college degrees or credentials by 2025. While the foundation's metrics are different from Virginia's metrics, its goal parallels a state effort to award 100,000 additional college degrees by 2025.

The state is on track to meet its goal, the State Council of Higher Education for Virginia said.