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Valley ranks high in least-educated areas of the US

By Denise Dick

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

By Denise Dick

The city made another “worst of” list, this time for being least educated.

A story on lists the Youngstown metropolitan area as number 93 out of 100 in proportion of adults 25 and older with a bachelor’s degree.

“The relatively low education levels of adults in these metropolitan areas pose an important barrier to their growing more productive industries, achieving greater economic diversity, and boosting the local standard of living,” says the study upon which the story was based.

The data is from 2008. The Web site’s story is from a study, “State of Metropolitan America” by the Metropolitan Policy Program at the Brookings Institute.

Tony Paglia, vice president of government affairs at the Youngstown-Warren Regional Chamber, said one thing the Chamber is focusing on is improving academics in kindergarten through 12th grade and increasing the number of students who go to college and earn their degrees.

The 19 percent of people 25 and older with a bachelor’s degree in the Youngstown metropolitan area is below the state average of 23 percent and the national average of 25 percent.

With Youngstown State University’s enrollment increasing, though, those numbers may improve as more people locate in the area after earning their degrees, Paglia said.

The chamber targets improved education because education level of the population is one factor considered when businesses choose a location, he said.

The study says the metro areas with the lowest college attainment rates include ones in California’s Central Valley, along the Texas border and in older industrial centers of the Northeast, Midwest and Southeast.

Stephanie Shaw, executive director of the Eastern Ohio P-16 Partnership for Education, said ensuring that students at all levels of education are prepared is one of the aims of the organization which spans Mahoning, Trumbull, Columbiana and Ashtabula counties.

There’s no communication, for example, between preschool and kindergarten teachers when a student makes the transition between the two levels. The partnership plans readiness summits between the two so each can learn from the other about what they think is proper preparation for a student entering kindergarten.

Other efforts are planned or under way at the other levels of education.

“The ultimate aim is to help [students] to be successful in life,” Shaw said. “That’s different for each student.”

The rest of the bottom 10 includes five California cities, Riverside-San Bernardino-Ontario, Fresno, Stockton, Modesto and Bakersfield, which are Nos. 7, 6, 4, 2 and 1 respectively; No. 5, Lakeland, Fla.; No. 3, McAllen, Texas; No. 10, Scranton, Pa.; and No. 9, El Paso, Texas.

“These regions have historically been home to industries such as manufacturing, agriculture and shipping, for which a college degree was not a prerequisite to obtaining a good-paying job,” the study says.

The Washington, D.C.,-Arlington-Alexandria, Va. area topped the list of most educated area followed by Bridgeport, Conn., and San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara, Calif.

No Ohio cities made the top 10.