Oklahoma ranked seventh least educated state in U.S. for 2021

Jeff Elkins, The Norman Transcript, Okla.
·3 min read

Feb. 21—A study released on Tuesday by a personal finance website ranks Oklahoma as one of the least educated states in the country.

For the study, WalletHub analysts looked at 18 metrics across all 50 states including education attainment, school quality and achievement gaps between genders and races.

According to the study, Oklahoma ranks 41st for Associate's Degree holders, 43rd for Bachelor's degree holders and 44th for graduate or professional degree holders. Only 25% of people over age 25 have a Bachelor's Degree.

Jill Gonzalez, analyst for WalletHub, said the main industries in Oklahoma and any state are correlated with the number of residents with Associate's, Bachelor's or Professional degrees.

"Another important factor that influences educational attainment is the quality of schools," Gonzales said. "Those who want to pursue a certain career will be drawn to states where they have better schools and more job opportunities."

Educationdata.org ranks Oklahoma 48th out of 50 in public education spending, which Gonzales said is potentially a contributing factor.

"The quality of education and schools is one of the main factors that affect people's decisions to pursue a higher education," Gonzales said. "The fact that the state does not invest in education can be a deterrent for students in seeking further education or specialization."

Oklahoma ranked 42nd in National Assessment of Educational Progress math and reading testing scores, according to the study. Just under 12% of the 2019 high school class scored a three or higher on Advanced Placement Exams.

A U.S. News report ranks Oklahoma 43rd in the country for K-12 school quality. Norman North High School is the 10th best high school in Oklahoma based on test score proficiency, according to the rankings.

Elizabeth Gil, assistant professor of educational leadership, administration and policy at the Fordham University Graduate School of Education in New York, said K-12 school quality impacts students in various ways.

"Academically, when students are provided with appropriate learning experiences and support early in their schooling, they can have a stronger academic foundation leading to success in later grades," Gil said in the report.

Gil said high expectations and support for students to meet their goals and potential can make a difference in students' futures.

"When students have negative experiences in school, and especially when these experiences accumulate over time, students can be pushed out of school, ultimately resulting in less high school completion, college attendance, or pursuit of education or training beyond high school," Gil said in the report.

Gonzales said there could be a trend between lower ranked states and the amount of jobs in that state that require advanced skills.

"The number of job opportunities that require advanced skills is an important factor that determines how educated a state's residents are," Gonzales said. "That and the quality of education are the main things that influence the level of education of a state's residents."

Kentucky, Alabama, Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi and West Virginia round out the bottom of the report's rankings behind Oklahoma.

Jeff Elkins covers business, living and community stories for The Transcript. Reach him at Jelkins@normantranscript.com or at @JeffElkins12 on Twitter.