This resource illustrates the final rankings for cities participating in the Talent dividend competition based on this data.

One of the most pressing challenges our nation faces is preparing a college-educated workforce. By 2018, more than 60% of jobs will require some form of college education, but today only 40% of Americans earn an associate degree or bachelor’s degree by age 27. A recent Georgetown study highlighted that Americans who haven’t earned a college degree or credential are 55% more likely to be unemployed, and the gap in lifetime earnings between a high school graduate and a four-year degree holder is edging close to a million dollars.

College Degrees

40% Today only 40% of Americans earn an associate degree or bachelor’s degree by age 27.

Recognizing the urgency to remain competitive in the global labor market, the completion agenda has emerged as a national imperative to produce more college graduates. Extending from the White House to national organizations and foundations, states, and post-secondary institutions there is a call to significantly raise the nation’s college completion rates.

In 2011, CEOs for Cities announced the National Talent Dividend $1 Million Prize Competition, funded by the Kresge Foundation, to be awarded to the metropolitan area with the greatest proportionate increase in the number of post-secondary degrees over a four-year period.

A total of 57 cities participated in the competition, with another handful of U.S. cities participating in the network. In March 2014, Living Cities joined with CEOs for Cities as a partner of the Talent Dividend Prize and, jointly with the Kresge Foundation, announced Akron, OH the winner of the $1 Million Prize on Wednesday, October 29, 2014.

The Data

Data on degrees awarded by educational institutions were drawn from the Integrated Post- Secondary Data System (IPEDS), operated by the U.S. Department of Education’s National Center for Educational Statistics. The IPEDS data system is the most comprehensive source of data on degrees awarded, and virtually all institutions of higher education are required to report to this system, which has a robust system of definitions, security, reporting and data verification. Data for this project were extracted from IPEDS for Academic Years 2009-10 (the base year) and 2012-13 (the final year). Population data for each metropolitan area has been obtained through the U.S. Census Bureau’s Population Estimates program. Data have been adjusted to conform to CBSA boundaries in effect at the time the Talent Dividend Prize was announced.

Adjustment for distance education—as provided in the Talent Dividend contest rules, the tabulations were adjusted to account for the effects of distance learning on degree awards reported in a metropolitan area. The contest rules provide: “Insofar as is possible, IPEDS data will be adjusted to correct for online degrees conferred on non-residents.” The Talent Dividend judges elected to exclude from consideration in computing a metropolitan area’s degree award totals in the base year and in the final year degrees issued by institutions where 60 percent or more of enrolled students were reported as being enrolled exclusively in distance education courses. Because no data is readily available on the residential location of students enrolled exclusively in distance education, there is no clear or necessary relationship between the reporting location of these institutions and the physical location of enrolled students or graduates. Data on enrollment in distance education classes was drawn from a Fall 2012 IPEDS survey (Ginder, 2014).

This resource illustrates the final rankings for cities participating in the Talent dividend competition based on this data.