Higher education rate grows in StutsmanStutsman County has seen its rate of post-high-school-educated adults 25 years and older rise significantly over the last 40 years.
By: Brian Willhide, The Jamestown Sun
Stutsman County has seen its rate of post-high-school-educated adults 25 years and older rise significantly over the last 40 years.
This is according to a report released earlier this month by the Center for Rural Strategies, which publishes the rural media source “The Daily Yonder.” The report compares statistics from 1970 to 2010.
In Stutsman County, 27.9 percent of adults 25 years and older had some college education in 2010 — up from 12.2 percent in 1970.
“It’s a very positive trend (in rural communities) in terms of adults that are at least receiving some education out of high school,” said Judy Stallman, an economist at the University of Missouri who contributed to the report.
Stallman said an increasing number of jobs, including those in rural communities, are stressing continuing education and/or qualifications that require post-high school education, but not necessarily four-year degrees.
“That sort of education is being offered in many rural communities through vocational schools and community colleges that are able to work closely with a lot of the businesses that are in those areas,” she said.
It is, however, something even local four-year schools like Jamestown College have experienced over the years as well, which has also led to attracting businesses to the area, according to JC President Bob Badal.
“Our job placement rates over the past two years have averaged 99 percent,” he said. “Because the college is here, several tech companies that the Jamestown/Stutsman Development Corp. has been working with have either moved here or may be coming here because the college produces graduates.”
Keeping graduates local
The difficulty for rural counties such as Stutsman has been keeping a high number of those with at least four-year degrees in the area after they graduate, according to Stallman and fellow report contributor Mark Partridge, a rural economist at Ohio State University.
“It’s a national trend that’s taking place regarding rural communities that have fallen behind urban communities in terms of attracting college graduates,” Partridge said. “Not all, but a lot of rural communities have failed to make themselves attractive to college graduates.”
Partridge said this is an alarming trend, especially considering the rise in those 25 years and older with college degrees since 1970.
In Stutsman County, 22.7 percent of adults 25 years and older had completed college — up more than 15 percentage points from 1970 when the rate was just 7.4 percent.
However, many of those graduates are electing to move on to opportunities outside rural communities such as Stutsman post-college graduation, Partridge said.
“For places like Jamestown for example, these young people in their 20s are getting their degrees and then moving on to the bright lights of the Twin Cities or even places like Fargo,” he said. “It’s tough to compete with that.”
Stallman said this trend — which she called the “rural brain drain” — is not something new in the U.S.
“We’ve been concerned about this for 100 years or more,” she said. “The encouraging thing overall is that rural areas are catching up to the rest of the nation in terms of post-high school education.”
In 2010, 27.4 percent of adults in rural counties across the U.S. had some post-high school education, only 0.7 percentage points less than the percentage of adults in urban counties with post-high school education.
That’s an improvement from 20 years ago, when the gap between urban and rural communities was 5.4 percentage points.
A different view
JC President Badal disagreed that rural communities like Stutsman County are struggling with this trend.
“Frankly, I’ve heard some of our older alums who left North Dakota in the 40s, 50s, etc., talk about looking elsewhere in the country for work, but over the last several years we’ve seen a number of grads who want to stay in this area,” he said. “North Dakota will need many highly educated graduates to fill future needs of the state, and that includes Stutsman County.”
Besides just future needs, there are currently demands for college-educated level jobs in rural areas of North Dakota, according to Kelly Bossert, office manager with the Jamestown branch of Job Service North Dakota.
“We have a need here for all degrees really — masters, bachelors, associates, etc. — and I think there’s rural spots all over the state that need college-educated people to fill positions,” he said.
Partridge said it will be important for rural communities to promote themselves to people in their 30s and older if they look to bridge the gap.
“The bright lights of the city are appealing for people getting out of college, but once they get there and have been there for a while, they tend to start thinking about moving back home — which for some of these people is in these rural areas,” he said.
For more information about The Daily Yonder’s report, visit www.dailyyonder.com.
Sun reporter Brian Willhide can be reached at 701-952-8454 or by email at email@example.com