The U.S. Census Bureau has released data on Oklahoma 's education levels, and their findings have a direct bearing on our future prosperity.
Some 83.5% of Oklahomans have a high school diploma or its equivalent.
That's a hair above the national average and a good indicator that more young Oklahomans are staying in school and graduating.
But the other side of the coin is less encouraging. Just 23.7% of Oklahomans have a four-year college degree or greater. Nationally, the average is 25.2%, and there are states where a third or more of adults have finished college. We currently rank 30th in the share of our citizens who have finished college.
It's no secret what that means -- companies looking to hire people with degrees, especially high tech firms, will go looking for states where there is a plentiful supply of college graduates. And those graduates will earn more, in many cases thousands more per year, than their peers who lack a degree.
We have taken some important steps in recent years to increase the number of Oklahomans who finish college.
The stronger high school curriculum passed two years ago is already resulting in higher ACT scores, which will in turn better prepare more high school graduates for college. At the same time, programs sponsored by the State Regents for Higher Education encourage more young people to attend and complete college.
One estimate suggests that 94,000 more college graduates would add $300 million to our state tax base -- and hundreds of millions more to our growing private sector economy.
Simply put, more learning means more economic growth and prosperity. And you can bet that 49 other states also know this and will be busy urging their young people to go to college.
We have done much for learning in recent years, and boosted higher education funding dramatically. We need to stay that course in 2001 and beyond.