The States With the Highest and Lowest High School Graduation Rates in the United States

Millions of Americans see higher education as their best hope for a brighter future, as it can lead to better job prospects, higher salaries, and expanded social circles.

An excellent education is the key to a better life for millions of Americans. Getting a college degree has many advantages, including better job prospects, higher pay, and increased social opportunities. However, educational background does play a role. Generally speaking, a person's earning potential and likelihood of being unemployed rise in tandem with the level of education to which they have attained.

The COVID-19 pandemic has been one of the greatest challenges to education over the past two years, and universities are now grappling with the challenge of balancing campus safety and the return to in-person classes. Despite these challenges, some states are better able than others to deliver secure, high-quality education.

Educational attainment, school quality, and gender/racial achievement gaps were among the 18 metrics compared across all 50 states by WalletHub.

Each of the cities with the highest and lowest median household incomes in terms of education level is determined by a separate WalletHub study.

Significant Results

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Best in Education Rankings

Position Overall State End Result Success in School Standard of Instruction 1 Massachusetts 81.82 1 3 2 Maryland 78.48 3 1 3 Connecticut 72.68 4 5 4 Colorado 69.82 2 32 5 Vermont 69.67 5 9 6 New Jersey 69.19 10 4 7 Virginia 68.83 7 7 8 This New Hampshire 68.65 6 12 9 Minnesota 64.53 8 25 10 Washington 63.30 9 28 11 Utah 63.23 11 15 12 Illinois 58.25 16 16 13 New York 57.37 19 14 14 Oregon 57.23 12 41 15 That place called Rhode Island 56.62 21 11 16 Delaware 55.94 23 8 17 Hawaii 55.45 15 33 18 Nebraska 55.06 20 23 19 Montana 55.03 13 46 20 Wisconsin 54.44 25 13 21 Maine 54.12 18 36 22 Florida 53.96 37 2 23 Kansas 52.58 14 49 24 The State of North Dakota 51.99 24 30 25 Michigan 51.71 26 21 26 California 51.37 36 6 27 Wyoming 50.92 22 37 28 Alaska 50.35 17 50 29 Carolina del Norte 49.71 30 17 30 Pennsylvania 49.18 28 29 31 Iowa 48.54 27 34 32 Missouri 47.71 31 27 33 Georgia 46.76 35 22 34 This is South Dakota. 45.89 29 40 35 Ohio 45.82 34 31 36 Idaho 44.69 32 44 37 Arizona 44.50 33 39 38 Indiana 43.07 40 10 39 Texas 39.05 42 20 40 Carolina del Sur 38.99 38 43 41 Tennessee 38.84 41 26 42 New Mexico 38.00 39 48 43 Nevada 37.89 44 19 44 Oklahoma 36.22 43 35 45 Kentucky 35.42 46 18 46 Alabama 33.08 45 38 47 Arkansas 31.00 47 24 48 Louisiana 25.75 48 45 49 Mississippi 25.35 49 47 50 "West Virginia" 23.15 50 42

In the table above, each column (with the exception of "Total Score") represents a state's relative ranking, with 1 representing the best possible conditions for the metric in question.

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Credit: WalletHub

Do Your Research!

We consulted a group of specialists from different fields to get their take on a range of other issues in higher education. To learn more about the panelists and their answers to the following questions, click on their names below.

  1. How does the standard of elementary and secondary education affect the proportion of students who graduate from high school and go on to pursue postsecondary education?
  2. Is there a way to prevent a "brain drain" across state lines?
  3. Compared to less educated states, do those with a higher level of education have a greater chance of surviving economic downturns
  4. What role, if any, should education policy play in states' overall plans for economic development?
  5. What effect, if any, will cutting state funding for higher education have on a state's ability to compete?
Michael T Miller
Associate Dean for Graduate and Professional Programs and Professor of Higher Education, College of Education and Health Professions, University of Arkansas
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Christine Kiracofe.
Title: Professor and Head of the Doctoral Program in Higher Education D System - Purdue University
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Shaun M Dougherty
Currently an associate professor in the Department of Leadership, Policy, and Organizations at Vanderbilt University's Peabody College in the field of public policy and education.
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Gary L Anderson
New York University's Steinhardt Professor of Culture, Education, and Human Development in the Department of Administration, Leadership, and Technology
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F Christian Curran
Ph D University of Florida, College of Education; Associate Professor; Director, Education Policy Research Center; Program Coordinator, Educational Leadership Program; School of Human Development and Organizational Studies in Education;
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T Brewer, Jameson
Ph D Social Foundations of Education, Leadership Education, and Social Foundations of Education Assistant Professor, University of North Georgia
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WalletHub compared the 50 states on two key dimensions—Educational Attainment and Quality of Education—to determine the most and least educated in the United States.

Here are the 18 metrics we found to be most important after analyzing these factors, along with the relative importance we assigned to each. Every criterion was assigned a score out of 100, with 100 being indicative of the "most educated" We credited states without gender/racial inequality equally with those that did on measures where women outperformed men and blacks outperformed whites. An asterisk (*) was placed next to the appropriate metrics.

We then ranked the states based on their weighted average across all metrics.

The Value of Education (60 Points)

  • Full Stakes (15) for the Proportion of Adults 25 and Older with a High School Diploma or More 00 Points)
  • Full Stakes (15) Given to the Percentage of Adults 25+ Who Have Completed Some College Coursework or Earned an Associate's Degree 00 Points)
  • Weighted (15) Proportion of Adults 25+ With a Bachelor's Degree 00 Points)
  • Full Consideration (15) Percentage of Adults 25 and Older with Postsecondary Education 00 Points)

Difference in Educational Quality and Level of Achievement: 40 Total Points

  • Importance Level: 2 (5) 16 Points)
    This metric relies on U.S. S The ranking of educational institutions by U.S.
  • The Population Weighted Average of Blue Ribbon Schools: Full (2 58 Points)
    Please take into account that this metric is only applicable to schools that have been recognized by the Department of Education's National Blue Ribbon Schools Program for academic excellence or improvement in reducing achievement gaps.
  • University Quality on Average, Doubled (5 16 Points)
    Nota bene: this metric is based on WalletHub's "2022 Best Colleges & Universities Ranking."
  • Students enrolled in Ivy League schools per 100,000 58 Points)
    Keep in mind that this metric is based on WalletHub's ranking of the best 1,015 colleges and universities in the United States as published in their "2022 College & University Rankings."
  • Among all public high schools, the graduation rate is double the national average (5 16 Points)
    Students who enrolled in high school for all four years have their graduation rate calculated using this metric.
  • Full Weight (2) Change in Projected High School Graduation Rate between 2020-2021 and 2031-2032 58 Points)
  • Scores on the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) Reading and Math Tests Carry Equal (2) 58 Points)
  • Percentage of Class of 2020 High School Graduates Obtaining a Score of 3 or Higher on All Advanced Placement Exams (2) 58 Points)
    To what extent students are taking and passing Advanced Placement (AP) exams at a level where they can earn credit toward a degree at most U.S. S educational institutions open to the public
  • Full Point Value (2) for Student Involvement in School 58 Points)
  • States that have Summer Learning Laws: 0.5 (1) 29 Points)
    It is important to note that this indicator tracks whether or not a summer school bill was introduced or passed in the state.
  • Half Weight (1) for States with Voucher Programs 29 Points)
    It is important to note that the presence or absence of voucher programs in a state is quantified by this binary metric.
    Voucher programs are one form of school choice. These state-sponsored initiatives, also known as scholarship programs, provide financial aid to students so that they may attend a private school. Funding for private school is allotted by the state and is usually determined by the per-pupil expenditure.
  • Existence of Tuition-Free Community College: 0.5 (1) 29 Points)
    This indicator shows whether or not a state offers free community college.
  • * The racial achievement gap carries the full brunt (2) of the sentence. 58 Points)
    One should take note that this indicator measures the disparity between the percentage of black and white bachelor's degree holders.
  • Difference in Educational Attainment Between Men and Women*: Heavy (2 58 Points)
    In particular, this indicator assesses the disparity between the percentage of women and men who have earned a bachelor's degree.

The information used to compile this ranking came from a variety of U. S Statistics Canada, Institute for Social Research, U.S. S The Campaign for Free College Tuition, Western Interstate Commission on Higher Education, U.S. News & World Report, Data Resource Center on Child and Adolescent Health, National Summer Learning Association, and the U.S. S WalletHub, The College Board, and the U.S. Department of Education study

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