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Kansas educational attainment improving but others states catching up

Posted Date: 04/20/2022

Kansas educational attainment improving but others states catching up

The percentage of Kansans attaining higher levels of education increased at all levels from 2010 to 2020, to reach a record high for completing high school, any college and four-year degrees or higher.

Local and state school leaders content that increasing educational attainment and post-secondary success will help Kansans prosper. This goal is a key tenant of the Kansas State Department of Education's Kansas Can vision, endorsed by the Kansas Association of School Boards.  Higher educational attainment results in a higher average income, lower chances of poverty, and higher employment because most new jobs require a higher level of skill. It also results in a state whose population can attract and retain jobs requiring higher skills and employees who earn higher wages. 

In Kansas, each level of education attained increases average earnings. 

Graph of education level earnings.

Since 2010, Kansans over 25 with a college degree increased by nearly 150,000 people, while those with a high school diploma only or less dropped by 56,000 people. 

Educational Attainment levels by population

While Kansas continues to improve, the national and regional averages are catching up. Though Kansas ranks in at least the top half of states at every level, the national and regional averages increased more over the past decade. Kansas excels at having residents with up to two-year degrees but has lagged in those with four-year degrees or higher. 

This information provides a measurement of the Kansas constitution’s directive for a system of public schools for educational attainment; of the State Board of Education’s Kansans Can vision to “lead the world in the success of each student,” and the state’s education goal to give students the ability to compete with surrounding states in academics and the job market. 

Note that this information is based on current state residents. Graduates of Kansas high schools who leave the state to attend college or for employment and do not return are not counted. People who grew up in other states and come to Kansas for college or work are counted. 

Ages 18-24   2010 Rank 2020 Rank Change
High School and Higher Kansas 85.5% 18 88.5% 18 3.0%
  U.S. Average 82.9%   87.8%   4.9%
  Region 85.2% 19.6 88.4% 22.3 3.2%
Some College and Higher Kansas 56.5% 10 58.8% 10 2.3%
  U.S. Average 51.7%   55.7%   4.0%
  Region 56.0% 14.2 57.9% 16.6 1.9%
BA Degree and Higher Kansas  9.0% 19 11.3% 23 2.3%
  U.S. Average 9.2%   11.8%   2.6%
  Region 9.2% 19.2 12.0% 18.7 2.8%


Young adults: Kansas continues to excel at getting students into postsecondary programs. 

For age 18-24, the population group most recently completing secondary education, the percent of Kansans completing high school or higher increased from 85.5 to 88.5 percent, ranking 10th in the nation in both 2010 and 2020. However, both the U.S. and regional average increased faster. The region is Kansas and the other “Plains” states (Minnesota, Iowa, Missouri, North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska) and the two other states bordering Kansas (Oklahoma and Colorado). 

Kansas’ best performance for 18-24-year-olds is in the percentage with any postsecondary education, from a few college courses to a graduate degree. That percentage increased from 56.5 to 58.8 percent, ranking 10th in the nation. Kansas increased more at this level than the region, but less than the U.S. average. 

Young Kansans with a four-year bachelor's degree or more rose from 9.0 to 11.3 percent, but Kansas’ ranking fell from 19th to 23rd. Both national and regional averages increased more than Kansas. 

Over 25: Highest levels ever, but warning signs for Kansas and the region 

For Kansans 25 and older, the percentage completing high school rose from 89.2 percent to 91.4 percent ranking 17th in both 2010 and 2020. However, both national and regional average increased more, and the regional average moved slightly ahead. 

Kansans over 25 with any college increased from 60.4 to 65.8 percent, with the state’s high ranking falling slightly from 12th to 13th. Kansans with a four-year degree or higher from 29.3 to 33.9 percent. However, the state’s ranking fell from 12th to 17th. 

Kansas’ postsecondary attainment increased at about the same rate as the region, but the national average rose faster for both any college and for bachelor's degrees and higher. Bachelor’s degree and higher is the only area where Kansas is below the national average. 

Ages 25 and Older   2010 Rank  2020 Rank  Change

High School and Higher

Kansas  89.2% 17 91.4% 17


  U.S. Average 85.0%   88.5%  


  Region 88.9% 15.3% 91.7% 15.6


Some College or Higher Kansas 60.4% 12 65.8% 13


  U.S. Average 56.0%   61.8%  


  Region 58.9% 18.7 64.4% 18.7


BA Degree or Higher Kansas 29.3% 12 33.9% 13


  U.S. Average 27.9%   32.9%  


  Region 27.6% 24.4 32.2% 24.7



Earnings: at each level Kansas increased faster than the national average, but not as much as the regional average

    2010 Rank 2020 Rank Change Percent
Population 25 years and over with earnings U.S. Average $34,665   $42,002   $7,337 21.2%
  Region $32,684 30 $41,780 24 $9,096 27.8%
  Kansas $32,744 26 $41,052 25 $8,308 25.4%
Less than high school graduate U.S. Average $19,492   $25,351   $5,859 30.1%
  Region $19,750 26 $27,733 15 $7,982 40.4%
  Kansas $20,580 15 $26,813 18 $6,233 30.3%
High school graduate (includes equivalency) U.S. Average $27,281   $32,002   $4,721 17.3%
  Region $26,580 31 $33,142 22 $6,562 24.7%
  Kansas $26,155 30 $31,702 29 $5,547 21.2%
Some college or associate's degree U.S. Average $33,593   $38,258   $4,665 13.9%
  Region $31,532 33 $38,459 24 $6,927 22.0%
  Kansas $31,019 35 $36,912 31 $5,893 19.0%
Bachelor's degree U.S. Average $48,485   $56,152   $7,667 15.8%
  Region $42,489 35 $52,017 29 $9,528 22.4%
  Kansas $43,671 29 $51,415 28 $7,744 17.7%
Graduate or professional degree U.S. Average $63,612   $75,328   $11,716 18.4%
  Region $54,863 34 $65,924 31 $11,061 20.2%
  Kansas $54,727 30 $63,299 34 $8,572 15.7%


In Kansas, average earnings are lower than the national average at each level except less than high school, and the gap widens as educational levels increase. However, Kansas earnings increased more than the national average between 2010 and 2020 for each level except graduate and professional degrees. 

On the other hand, the regional average for earnings increased more than the Kansas average at each educational level. In 2010, Kansans earned more than the regional average at each level. In 2020, the regional average was higher than Kansas at each level. (This comparison is based on actual dollars and is not adjusted for regional cost of living difference.) 

Kansas Can and Educational Attainment 

To improve educational attainment, the Kansans Can vision encourages schools to: 

  • Improve academic preparation at all levels so students are prepared for high school and postsecondary requirements. 

  • Provide more focus on career planning and preparation so students find their interests, understand their career options and prepare for the education and training required to achieve those goals.  

  • Work more closely with families to help students set goals and with businesses and communities to give students more “real world” experience including internships, job shadowing and work-based learning, and civic engagement to prepare for life after high school. 

  • Provide more college and career counseling and work with post-secondary institutions to help students make the transition from high school to work and college. 

Kansas students, parents and educators have continued to improve educational attainment during a decade of economic downturns, tax cuts that limited school funding, and school finance litigation. But other states are working hard as well. With funding being restored through the Gannon school finance plan and the Kansans Can vision, Kansas education leaders have an opportunity to make the kinds of changes noted above and move toward the State Board of Education’s goal to “lead the world in the success of every student.”. 

(Data Source: U.S. Census Bureau’s American Community Survey, annual estimates of educational attainment for each state. Five-year estimates covering the period from 2015 to 2020 have just been released.)