The Star Beacon; Ashtabula, Ohio

Reality Check

June 25, 2008

County fails to make higher-education grade

higher education, Ashtabula County is at the bottom of the class., Census Bureau, high school diploma

When it comes to higher education, Ashtabula County is at the bottom of the class.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, only 12.3 percent of the county’s residents 25 or older have a bachelor’s degree or higher. Nationwide, the rate is 27.3 percent. Just across the county line, in Lake County, the rate 22.7 percent.

The county’s percentage of residents with a bachelor’s degree is even lower than the state average for West Virginia, which comes in dead last nationally.

“It seems pretty pervasive in our community that young people just don’t aspire to higher education,” says Susan Stocker, dean of Kent State University-Ashtabula campus.

The relationship between higher education and higher pay is well proven. According to Census Bureau data, workers 18 and older with bachelor degrees earn an average of $51,206 annually; those with only a high school diploma earn $27,915. Those with advanced degrees pull down $74,602. A worker without a high school diploma averages only $18,734.

In Ashtabula County, roughly 20 percent of the population lacks a high school diploma, about the same as the national percentage.

It would be easy to shift all of the blame for the county’s poor per capita and household-income standings on the educational level alone. However, if jobs that require college degrees don’t exist in the county and an individual is unwilling to assume the expense involved in commuting to jobs that do require a degree, there’s not much incentive for college-educated individuals to locate here.

“It’s the chicken or the egg,” says Mary Zappitelli, Conneaut Area City Schools’ superintendent.

Edgewood Senior High School guidance counselor Gary Himes points out that a college graduate wants to get on with life after making an investment of four years and tens of thousands of dollars.

“People cannot go out and get an education and them come back home and wait for a job to open up,” he says.

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