Marion County —
Overall, Stallmann says, the trends show that “rural people have responded to the demand for increased job skills by the increasing their post secondary education.”
Only 8.6 percent of the adult population in Marion County had failed to graduate from high school in 2010. Nationally 15 percent of adults had not completed high school; in Iowa, the rate was 10.1 percent.
Mark Partridge, a rural economist at Ohio State University, says that regional differences in college graduation rates have increased in recent years. Partridge said his studies have found that rural counties and counties with small cities in the South and West didn’t fare as well as those in the Midwest and Northeast in attracting college graduates. Even though the Sunbelt has seen tremendous growth over the past few decades, the South’s rural counties haven’t kept up in terms of attracting adults with college degrees.
But the problem of keeping college graduates in rural America is a national issue and one that is also enduring.
Missouri economist Stallmann said this is a reflection of the kinds of jobs that are generally available in rural communities. If there are fewer jobs demanding college degrees in a community, there are likely to be fewer college graduates.
“It’s a big deal in a lot of rural counties because you don't see a lot of jobs that require a college education," Stallmann said. Young people graduating from high school don’t see many jobs that demand a college diploma, so they don’t think about coming home once they leave for the university.
There can be a “self-reinforcing cycle” in rural communities, Stallmann said — young people leave to gain higher education, they don’t come back after college because there aren’t jobs that demand such education, and their absence diminishes the chances that more of these kinds of jobs will be created.