The 15 most educated cities in the United States


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Editor’s note: This story originally appeared on HireAHelper.

Amidst the intersection of rising debt and rising college costs comes an honest question: Is college worth it?

The country’s student loan level reached nearly $1.4 trillion in 2020, making it the second largest debt pool after mortgages. This number is ahead of auto loans, credit cards, and other personal loans.

After adjusting for inflation, the average cost of a college education doubled between 1985 and 2019, while median household income rose only 28%.

The data points to an even bigger problem for high school graduates considering their future. Even if college is worth it, will graduates be willing to take on tens of thousands of dollars in student debt over the next 10, 20, 30 years?

Today’s high school seniors grapple with important questions that do not have easy answers, and this may explain why the gig economy has spread. Self-employed people often do not have to prove their education to be employed. Instead, they can display their skills. Talent, in some cases, takes workers further than a certification can get.

To identify the cities with the highest levels of education, researchers at HireAHelper analyzed US Census Bureau data and calculated a composite score (0 to 100) based on the average number of years of education completed by residents.

For example, a person who has finished high school is considered to have completed 12 years of education; Whereas a person who has obtained a bachelor’s degree is considered to have completed 16 years.

The following are the large US cities (population 350,000 or more) with the highest education rates.

15. New Orleans, Los Angeles

Stormy skies in New Orleans, Louisiana
Photo by GJGK / Shutterstock.com
  • Compound class: 65.4
  • Average number of years of education: 13.9
  • College or professional degree: 18.0%
  • Bachelor’s degree only: 21.7%
  • Associate degree only: 3.9%
  • GCSE only: 23.1%
  • Below a high school diploma: 12.3%

14. Nashville, Tennessee

Nashville, Tennessee
jdross75 / Shutterstock.com
  • Compound class: 67.0
  • Average number of years of education: 14.0
  • College or professional degree: 17.2%
  • Bachelor’s degree only: 28.1%
  • Associate degree only: 6.4%
  • GCSE only: 20.2%
  • Less than a high school diploma: 10.5%

13. San Diego, California

Sean Pavone / Shutterstock.com
  • Composite class: 67.1
  • Average number of years of education: 14.1
  • College or professional degree: 19.3%
  • Bachelor’s degree only: 28.1%
  • Associate degree only: 7.0%
  • GCSE only: 15.6%
  • Less than a high school diploma: 10.5%

12. Boston, Massachusetts

Boston, Massachusetts
Roman Babkin / Shutterstock.com
  • Compound class: 68.5
  • Average number of years of education: 14.2
  • College or professional degree: 24.3%
  • Bachelor’s degree only: 27.5%
  • Associate degree only: 5.1%
  • GCSE only: 19.1%
  • Less than a high school diploma: 11.4%

11. Virginia Beach, Virginia

Virginia Beach, Virginia
JoMo333 / Shutterstock.com
  • Compound class: 69.0
  • Average number of years of education: 14.2
  • College or professional degree: 15.3%
  • Bachelor’s degree only: 22.9%
  • Associate degree only: 12.2%
  • GCSE only: 18.7%
  • Below a high school diploma: 5.9%

10. Colorado Springs, Colorado

Pikes Peak, Colorado Springs
CG3 / Shutterstock.com
  • Composite class: 69.2
  • Average number of years of education: 14.2
  • College or professional degree: 15.4%
  • Bachelor’s degree only: 24.9%
  • Associate degree only: 10.6%
  • GCSE only: 20.0%
  • Less than a high school diploma: 5.6%

9. Austin, Texas

Austin, Texas watercolor
Silvio Liguti / Shutterstock.com
  • Compound class: 70.7
  • Average number of years of education: 14.3
  • College or professional degree: 21.1%
  • Bachelor’s degree only: 33.9%
  • Associate degree only: 5.5%
  • GCSE only: 14.2%
  • Less than a high school diploma: 10.1%

8. Minneapolis, Minnesota

Lake Calhoun, Minneapolis
Roger Siljander / Shutterstock.com
  • Composite class: 71.6
  • Average number of years of education: 14.4
  • College or professional degree: 20.7%
  • Bachelor’s degree only: 31.5%
  • Associate degree only: 7.7%
  • GCSE only: 14.6%
  • Less than a high school diploma: 8.7%

7. Raleigh, North Carolina

Raleigh, North Carolina
Sean Pavone / Shutterstock.com
  • Compound class: 71.7
  • Average number of years of education: 14.4
  • College or professional degree: 18.7%
  • Bachelor’s degree only: 31.6%
  • Associate degree only: 7.2%
  • GCSE only: 16.8%
  • Below a high school diploma: 8.2%

6. Denver, Colorado

Denver, Colorado
f11photo / Shutterstock.com
  • Compound class: 71.8
  • Average number of years of education: 14.4
  • College or professional degree: 20.5%
  • Bachelor’s degree only: 32.6%
  • Associate degree only: 5.0%
  • GCSE only: 17.0%
  • Less than a high school diploma: 8.8%

5. San Francisco, California

San Francisco, California
canadastock / Shutterstock.com
  • Composite class: 72.0
  • Average number of years of education: 14.4
  • College or professional degree: 24.1%
  • Bachelor’s degree only: 35.1%
  • Associate degree only: 4.9%
  • GCSE only: 11.9%
  • Less than a high school diploma: 11.6%

4. Portland, or

Portland skyline
John Billos / Shutterstock.com
  • Compound class: 75.0
  • Average number of years of education: 14.7
  • College or professional degree: 21.4%
  • Bachelor’s degree only: 31.4%
  • Associate degree only: 6.5%
  • GCSE only: 15.0%
  • Below a high school diploma: 6.5%

3. Atlanta, Georgia

Atlanta, Georgia
f11 photo / Shutterstock.com
  • Composite class: 78.7
  • Average number of years of education: 14.9
  • College or professional degree: 24.3%
  • Bachelor’s degree only: 32.2%
  • Associate degree only: 5.3%
  • GCSE only: 17.0%
  • Below a high school diploma: 7.5%

2. Washington, DC

Washington DC
f11photo / Shutterstock.com
  • Compound class: 81.3
  • Average number of years of education: 15.1
  • College or professional degree: 34.0%
  • Bachelor’s degree only: 25.7%
  • Associate degree only: 3.3%
  • GCSE only: 15.8%
  • Below a high school diploma: 8.2%

1. Seattle, Washington

Aerial view of roads to Seattle at sunset.
Puneet Sharma Photography / Shutterstock.com
  • Compound class: 83.5
  • Average number of years of education: 15.3
  • College or professional degree: 28.1%
  • Bachelor’s degree only: 36.9%
  • Associate degree only: 5.4%
  • GCSE only: 9.5%
  • Below a high school diploma: 5.3%

methodology

Man, analyzing data on a laptop
fizkes / Shutterstock.com

Population and educational attainment data are from the 2019 American Community Survey issued by the US Census Bureau. All education data for the population 25 years and over.

To identify the cities with the highest levels of education, the researchers calculated a composite score (from 0 to 100) based on the average number of years of education completed by residents.

For example, a person who has only completed high school will be considered to have completed 12 years of education; Whereas, a person who has only completed a bachelor’s degree will be considered to have completed 16 years.

Data on the self-assessment value of higher education and financial well-being by education level is from the Federal Reserve’s 2020 US Household Economic Welfare Report.

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