Colorado Leads All 50 states in Educational Attainment

Monday, February 5, 2024

DENVER - Today, Governor Polis and the Colorado Department of Higher Education (CDHE) announced that Colorado leads the nation in postsecondary educational attainment.

The Lumina Foundation released its latest A Stronger Nation: Learning Beyond High School Builds American Talent report recently, which shows educational attainment levels by state, region, and race/ethnicity across the country. Colorado has the highest educational attainment levels of any state in the nation with 62.9% of the population aged 25-64 having some form of a postsecondary credential, including everything from certifications and certificates to graduate and professional degrees.

“Colorado is proud to lead the nation in educational attainment, but we know we can do even better. We want to ensure that every Coloradan has the opportunity to get the skills they need to fill good-paying jobs that power our economy. This landmark report shows that Colorado is moving in the right direction, and we continue working to innovate and create even more ways that people can get credentialed or certified for skills they acquire in life or in higher education,” said Governor Jared Polis. 

According to Lumina’s tool, Colorado’s attainment rate increased from 60.5% in 2021 to 62.9% in 2022. The new data also shows promising gains among Coloradans earning bachelor's and graduate degrees. Bachelor’s degrees have increased from 24.5% in 2009 to 27.2% in 2018 and 30.5% in 2022. Graduate attainment has increased from 12.9% in 2009, 15.1% in 2018, and 16.6% in 2022.

In 2023, the Colorado Commission on Higher Education released a strategic plan, Building Skills in an Evolving Economy focused on increasing the economic mobility of Colorado's learners and earners by aligning postsecondary talent development with industry and statewide needs. The commission updated the plan from a focus on credential attainment (66% attainment by 2025) to ensure that the education investment learners make delivers value. 

"I am proud that Colorado has secured its place as the leading state in postsecondary educational attainment in the country,” said Dr. Angie Paccione, executive director of CDHE. “Our commitment to excellence in education positions us at the forefront, and with this achievement, we stand ready to be responsive to the dynamic needs of the industry and workforce. By aligning our educational initiatives with the demands of the evolving job market, we ensure that our residents are equipped with the skills and knowledge necessary for success.”

In addition to an overall increase, Colorado has also seen increases among Coloradans of color:

  • African American or Black Coloradans – 41.6% up from 39.2% in 2018

  • American Indian or Alaska Native Coloradans – 33.7% up from 29.9% in 2018 

  • Hispanic or Latino Coloradans – 30.3% up from 23.8% in 2018 

Colorado also has among the highest need for postsecondary educational attainment in the nation.  According to a recent Georgetown University report, at 73%, Colorado is third in the nation for the percentage of jobs that will require any postsecondary education in 2023. The report also finds that by 2031, Colorado is projected to be the #1 state in terms of the percentage of jobs that will require a bachelor's degree.