This Is Where Your State Ranks in Education

by Emily DeRuy

How well are states edu­cat­ing stu­dents?

A pair of new rank­ings at­tempts to an­swer that ques­tion.

The first re­port, Edu­ca­tion Week’s an­nu­al Qual­ity Counts re­port, looks at K-12 edu­ca­tion and finds that, on the whole, the na­tion earns a C, or 74.4 per­cent. North­east­ern states such as Mas­sachu­setts, New Jer­sey, Ver­mont, and Mary­land score the best with B grades or high­er, but no state earns an A.

Us­ing a range of in­dic­at­ors that in­clude aca­dem­ic per­form­ance, equity and school fin­ance, the re­port finds that South­ern and West­ern states per­form the worst, with Nevada com­ing in last with a D grade and 65.2 per­cent.

The Dis­trict of Columbia, which has the na­tion’s low­est high school gradu­ation rate at less than 62 per­cent, moved up 10 spots to 28th place in this year’s re­port, in part be­cause fam­ily in­comes and em­ploy­ment have in­creased in the cap­it­al.

The re­port finds that per-pu­pil spend­ing is $11,667 on av­er­age, with vast dif­fer­ences across states. Ver­mont spends nearly $19,000 per stu­dent, while Utah spends just shy of $7,000 (Ver­mont comes in third over­all with a sol­id B rank­ing, while Utah scores just above West Vir­gin­ia with a low C.). Just one state, Alaska, of­fers more fund­ing for poor dis­tricts than wealth­i­er dis­tricts.

Ex­plore the full re­port at Edu­ca­tion Week here.

The second re­port, from the youth-ad­vocacy or­gan­iz­a­tion Young In­vin­cibles, meas­ures state sup­port for pub­lic high­er edu­ca­tion.

The re­port found that states have slashed per stu­dent spend­ing more than 20 per­cent between 2008 and 2014. States of­ten trum­pet that they’ve in­ves­ted more over the past couple of years, but Young In­vin­cibles notes that just two states—North Dakota and Alaska—spend as much on high­er edu­ca­tion as they did prere­ces­sion.

Between 2008 and 2014, Louisi­ana and Alabama both cut high­er-edu­ca­tion fund­ing by about 40 per­cent. New York’s fund­ing has only de­clined 5 per­cent dur­ing that time, mak­ing it one of the three states with the smal­lest cuts.

At the same time as some­times-drastic fund­ing cuts, tu­ition and fees, the re­port finds, have ris­en 28 per­cent, or slightly less than $2,000, since the re­ces­sion. While some states—in­clud­ing Mary­land and Mis­souri—have kept in­creases be­low 10 per­cent, oth­ers—in­clud­ing Ari­zona and Geor­gia—have in­creased tu­ition at four-year schools by more than 65 per­cent.

All of that means that fam­il­ies now shoulder a much-high­er per­cent­age of the cost of at­tend­ing col­lege. In 2008, stu­dents and their fam­il­ies covered slightly more than a third of the cost of pub­lic col­lege. In 2014, it was about half. Fam­il­ies in Ver­mont and New Hamp­shire pay more than 80 per­cent of col­lege costs. In Wyom­ing and Cali­for­nia, fam­il­ies pay 15 and 22 per­cent re­spect­ively.

Stu­dents of col­or have likely been dis­pro­por­tion­ately im­pacted.

Tom Al­lis­on, deputy policy and re­search dir­ect­or, told Next Amer­ica, “Stu­dents of col­or dis­pro­por­tion­ately at­tend pub­lic in­sti­tu­tions and these in­sti­tu­tions are es­pe­cially re­li­ant on state budget sup­port.”

The group ad­ded an “at­tain­ment equity” meas­ure this year, which meas­ured gaps in col­lege at­tend­ance between whites and blacks and Lati­nos. The re­port found that the gap between white adults and Latino adults with a post­sec­ond­ary de­gree grew more than 2 points between 2007 and 2015. The up­shot is that more people of all back­grounds are get­ting de­grees, but de­gree at­tain­ment is grow­ing fast­est among whites. West Vir­gin­ia has the highest at­tain­ment gap when it comes to whites and blacks, at 24 per­cent, while Cali­for­nia has the highest gap between whites and Lati­nos, at 34 per­cent.

Al­lis­on sug­ges­ted that states ad­opt spe­cif­ic goals and plans to close at­tain­ment gaps. Young In­vin­cibles has found, he ad­ded, that in­creas­ing need-based aid as op­posed to mer­it-based aid, ro­bust ad­vising pro­grams, and clear trans­fer op­tions from com­munity col­leges in­to four-year uni­versit­ies en­cour­age stu­dents of col­or to not only en­roll in col­lege, but earn a de­gree.