BATON ROUGE - In its recent A Stronger Nation Report, Lumina Foundation announced that Louisiana now has the highest percentage in the nation of working age adults (25-64) who hold a high-quality postsecondary certificate as their highest level of attainment.

Lumina Foundation is working to help increase the proportion of Americans with high-quality degrees, certificates and other credentials to 60 percent by the year 2026. The new data reported updates what progress is being made around the country towards meeting this national postsecondary attainment goal.

The new data on nationwide postsecondary attainment indicates Louisiana has the highest percentage in the nation of working age adults (25-64) who hold a high-quality postsecondary certificate as their highest level of attainment.

According to nationally representative data from the Center for Education and the Workforce at Georgetown University, only 4.9 percent of Americans hold high-quality postsecondary certificates as their highest level of attainment, compared to 15 percent in Louisiana. Many certificates, which are predominately awarded by community and technical colleges, have significant value in the workforce and can provide a family sustaining income and a gateway for further education.

In 2014, the most recent date for which data are available, Louisiana’s overall degree attainment rate was 29.7 percent. This year, for the first time, the Foundation has included nationally representative data on the percentage of Americans who hold high-quality postsecondary certificates; and has applied these credentials toward the attainment goals. With the addition of high value post-secondary certificates, Louisiana’s overall postsecondary attainment rate is 44.7 percent, which ranks 26th nationally. In the previous year (2013), Louisiana ranked 50th in overall degree attainment, which only included associate degrees and above.

“This report demonstrates the tremendous work of our colleges in meeting the workforce needs of business and industry across Louisiana,” said Governor John Bel Edwards. “We applaud the landmark work Lumina Foundation is doing in focusing the nation’s attention on attainment and continuing to expand our collective thinking on the value of college credentials at all levels.” 

Lumina Foundation began reporting the attainment rate (associate degree and higher) in 2008. However, according to the Lumina Foundation report, the degree attainment rate doesn’t tell the whole story. The foundation says that other postsecondary credentials — including certificates and certifications — should count toward national and state goals for attainment, with one important caveat. To count, non-degree credentials should be of high quality, which Lumina Foundation defines as having clear and transparent learning outcomes leading to further education and employment. Examples of programs in Louisiana that meet these standards include allied health, computer science, construction crafts, electrical, engineering technology, industrial production and welding.

“Lumina Foundation believes it’s time to shift our national dialogue about ‘college,’ to be more inclusive of non-traditional, yet still high-quality credentials that can lead to further education and a leg up in the job market,” said Dewayne Matthews, vice president of strategy development. “Our view is expanding the definition to include postsecondary certificates, not just degrees.”

Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce provided data for each state for the report on the percentage of residents who hold high-quality certificates as their highest earned credential.

Lumina Foundation report also identified Louisiana as one of 26 states that has responded to the need to increase attainment with its Our Louisiana 2020: Building the Workforce of Tomorrow public agenda, by setting state attainment goals that meet Lumina’s criteria for rigor and efficacy (i.e., the goal is quantifiable, challenging, long term, addresses gaps, and is in statute and/or a strategic plan).