OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) -- Oklahomans kept pace with the nation in the percentage of residents with high school diplomas, but the state lags behind when it comes to adults with bachelor's degrees, a federal report showed Friday.
The U.S. Census Bureau report, "Educational Attainment in the United States: March 1999, shows 83.5 percent of Oklahomans 25 or older have at least a high school degree. The national average is 83.4 percent, an all-time high.
But the percentage of Oklahomans with at least a bachelor's degree is 23.7 percent, up more than three points from March 1994, but still below the national average of 25 percent.
The Oklahoma State Regents for Higher Education launched a program aimed at increasing the percentage of state residents with college degrees to slightly exceeding the national average by the year 2010.
The program focuses on preparing high school students academically and financially for college and improving college graduation rates.
"The 23.6 percent number released by the Census Bureau shows that we are making progress toward reaching the goal of surpassing the national average," higher education Chancellor Hans Brisch said in a statement. "Though we're happy with the gains identified by this data, there is clearly more work to be done."
The statistics in the report are census estimates collected in March 1999 and could be off about 2 percent.
Eric Newburger, co-author of the report, said the education level of Americans will continue to increase as younger, more educated people will replace their older, less educated counterparts.
The nation's capital, Washington, D.C., had the highest percentage of adults with bachelor's degrees with 42.1 percent.
Arkansas had the fewest with 17.3 percent.
More than nine of every 10 adults in Alaska have a high school diploma, the highest percentage in the country, while about three-fourths of adults in West Virginia have diplomas, the lowest in the nation.
The report also found that: -- Adults age 18 and older with a bachelor's degree earned an average of $43,782. Those with only a high school diploma earned $23,594.
-- Among those ages 25 to 29, almost 90 percent of women and 86 percent of men had high school diplomas. More women earned bachelor's degrees (30 percent) than men (27 percent).
-- About 88 percent of whites age 25 and older completed high school. The rate was 85 percent for Asian and Pacific Islanders, 77 percent for blacks and 56 percent for Hispanics.