By ALIA MALIK, Capital News Service
WASHINGTON - Maryland has the second-highest proportion in the nation of people who have earned at least a bachelor's degree, according to recently released U.S. Census Bureau data.
Yet the state's population of high school graduates ranks just slightly above the national average at 86.9 percent of those aged 25 or older, only a little above the national average of 85 percent, the data show.
The fact that Maryland's high school graduation rate wasn't as exceptional as its college education rate reflects the migration of degree holders to the state, said Michael Keller, director of policy analysis and research for the Maryland Higher Education Commission.
"Maryland imports a large number of people who have bachelor's degrees or higher," Keller said. "We're an exporter in high school graduates for college. There's a brain drain in Maryland."
The state is a magnet for highly educated workers because of its proximity to the District of Columbia, the only "state" to have a higher percentage of people aged 25 or higher with at least a bachelor's degree. The data, collected in 2005, showed that 36.3 percent of Marylanders fit that bill.
The District of Columbia's high education level brought suburban Maryland in on its coattails, said Donna Wiseman, associate dean of the University of Maryland, College Park's College of Education.
Many residents of Montgomery County and the area surrounding the nation's capital work in the city's high-level government and technology sectors, Wiseman explained.
"It's just an area where the job-related activities really require that you have a high degree of training," she said.
Yet suburban Washington isn't carrying the whole state, Wiseman said, citing a profusion of quality higher education institutions, including The Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, University of Maryland System and several respected historically black universities and community colleges.
"For us, just having universities, politics, education, technology all in one area is really going to increase the potential for high education levels," Wiseman said.
The numbers weren't equally positive across the demographic spectrum. Although 59.1 percent of Asians and 40.6 percent of whites had achieved a bachelor's degree, only 26.9 percent of blacks and 16.2 percent of Hispanics earned that distinction.
Hispanics also trailed in high school graduation rates, with 48.5 percent of those aged 25 and older possessing a high school diploma. The proportion for other races neared 90 percent.
Wiseman said, "Even though we're ranked second, we've got to close that gap."