25 Most Educated Small Towns in America

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In this article, we look at the 25 most educated small towns in America. You can skip our detailed analysis on educational attainment in micropolitan statistical areas, and head over directly to the 10 Most Educated Small Towns in America.

The US Census Bureau in February 2022 released statistics detailing educational attainment levels in the country. According to the data, 37.9% of Americans aged 25 and above had completed education up to bachelor’s degree, or higher. Nearly 15% had some college education, while 10.5% held associate degrees. Later that year, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) established in a report the direct positive relationship that exists between income and educational levels. You can read more about the findings of BLS in our article, 20 Most Educated Cities in the US.

Educational institutions have, for decades, been a lifeline for small towns, by enabling the youth access to steady, well-paying jobs. Better school and college education boosts academic achievements, opening the doors for long-run economic prospects, not just for the students but also for their regions. Educational support programs initiated by large corporations have also aided students belonging to smaller, underserved areas. TechSpark, for example, is a national civic program started by Microsoft Corporation (NASDAQ:MSFT) in 2017 to accelerate economic growth and job creation in rural, micropolitan, and smaller metropolitan areas targeting specific communities in Washington, Texas, Virginia, North Dakota, Wyoming, and Wisconsin.

Microsoft Corporation (NASDAQ:MSFT)’s TechSpark program is focused on digital and career skills development, and has done wonders in Northeast Wisconsin where now 88% of the schools offer computer education. Microsoft Corporation (NASDAQ:MSFT) is also offering free cyber security training to students at the Jackson State University in Mississippi to upskill them as per the requirements of the workplace.

Several companies have also come up with their education fee reimbursement programs to encourage their employees to seek college education. Many companies even offer to sponsor tuition and fees for children of their employees. With rising costs of living and given the fact that residents of smaller towns and cities tend to have lower median household incomes compared to their compatriots settled in larger cities, these fee reimbursement programs offer a great opportunity for the youth in smaller towns to pursue education.

FedEx Corporation (NYSE:FDX) offers delivery services across the 50 states and employs more than 500,000 workers across large metropolitans and small towns. Its tuition reimbursement program allows ground package handlers to claim up to $5,250 to pay for tuition and fees. Moreover, a partnership between the company and Robert Morris University offers FedEx Corporation (NYSE:FDX) employees to get enrolled for online university education at a discount.

Amazon.com, Inc. (NASDAQ:AMZN) too, in 2021, announced that it would spend a whopping $1.2 billion on education and training programs for its workforce. Employees working on an hourly wage would be eligible for coverage up to 100% of the cost of tuition and fees for their college education. This program is likely to benefit up to 750,000 employees.

In addition to offering incentive programs to promote education, Amazon.com, Inc. (NASDAQ:AMZN) is also undertaking measures to make education more accessible and affordable for all. The company will be launching 3,000 satellites under Project Kuiper to provide affordable broadband services to underserved communities and regions. If the project succeeds, Amazon.com, Inc. (NASDAQ:AMZN) will be enabling millions of people across the world to access high quality education services over the internet.

Methodology

We have ranked the 25 most educated small towns in America using data released by the Census Bureau in its 2021 American Community Survey on education levels in micropolitan statistical areas in the United States. The maximum population cap was set to 75,000. Micropolitans include principal cities or towns along with surrounding areas nearby.

Two metrics have been considered in our analysis – percentage of the population aged between 18 and 24 with some college or associate degree, and percentage of the population that is 25 and above and holds a bachelor’s degree or higher. Equal weightage has been assigned to these two metrics, after which their scores were aggregated.

Towns are ranked in ascending order of these scores. In case where scores were equal for two or more towns, we outranked one over the other by considering which of these had a higher percentage of bachelor’s degree or higher education.

25 Most Educated Small Towns in America
25 Most Educated Small Towns in America

Let's now head over to the list of the most educated small towns in America.

25. Lake City, FL Micro Area

Population: 69,698

Percentage of population aged between 18-24 with a college or associate degree: 33.1%

Percentage of population aged 25 and above with a bachelor’s degree or higher: 18.3%

Score: 0.51

Lake City’s bachelor’s degree attainment level is about half the rate of Florida, but when it comes to college education, the micropolitan not only fares better than the state, but also has a 25% higher rate than the United States on the whole.

24. Wisconsin Rapids-Marshfield, WI Micro Area

Population: 74,207

Percentage of population aged between 18-24 with a college or associate degree: 33.6%

Percentage of population aged 25 and above with a bachelor’s degree or higher: 18.4%

Score: 0.52

47% of the population in Wisconsin Rapids-Marshfield is aged below 40. The micropolitan has a median household income of $52,627, which is about three-quarters of what an average American earns. 5% of the people aged 25 and above hold a postgraduate degree in Wisconsin-Rapids-Marshfield.

23. Baraboo, WI Micro Area

Population: 65,763

Percentage of population aged between 18-24 with a college or associate degree: 22.2%

Percentage of population aged 25 and above with a bachelor’s degree or higher: 29.8%

Score: 0.52

More than half of the population in Baraboo is aged above 40. It ranks among the most educated small towns in America with 94.1% of the population having completed at least high school graduation. The micro area fares better in terms of higher education attainment compared to college education, which is a rare occurrence.

22. Marion, OH Micro Area

Population: 65,359

Percentage of population aged between 18-24 with a college or associate degree: 39.4%

Percentage of population aged 25 and above with a bachelor’s degree or higher: 13.8%

Score: 0.53

Marion, in Ohio, has one of the highest rates of high school graduates in the United States, and its college or associate degree attainment levels are also higher than both the national and state average. However, only 13.8% of its population has completed at least a bachelor’s degree.

21. Fort Payne, AL Micro Area

Population: 71,608

Percentage of population aged between 18-24 with a college or associate degree: 40.2%

Percentage of population aged 25 and above with a bachelor’s degree or higher: 13.6%

Score: 0.54

Fort Payne has a rich history in textile manufacturing and is often referred to as the sock capital of the world. It has a high ratio of the youth completing their college or associate degree, but at the same time, an estimated 22% of the population has no degree – not even high school.

20. Hobbs, NM Micro Area

Population: 74,455

Percentage of population aged between 18-24 with a college or associate degree: 38.9%

Percentage of population aged 25 and above with a bachelor’s degree or higher: 16.5%

Score: 0.55

Hobbs is the principal city of the Hobbs micropolitan statistical area of New Mexico. The settlement was founded in 1907 and expanded after discovery of oil in the area in 1927. There are two prominent educational institutions offering college education in Hobbs – New Mexico Junior College, and the University of the Southwest which was initially called College of the Southwest.

19. Rio Grande City-Roma, TX Micro Area

Population: 65,920

Percentage of population aged between 18-24 with a college or associate degree: 43.9%

Percentage of population aged 25 and above with a bachelor’s degree or higher: 12.7%

Score: 0.57

The population of Rio Grande is predominantly Hispanic. 99.6% of the teachers here are licensed and have at least three years of experience, according to US News. The student-to-teacher ratio in Rio Grande is 13:1. It is one of the most educated small towns in America with high rates of college or associate degree attainment in the country.

18. Roanoke Rapids, NC Micro Area

Population: 66,093

Percentage of population aged between 18-24 with a college or associate degree: 41

Percentage of population aged 25 and above with a bachelor’s degree or higher: 15.6%

Score: 0.57

The Roanoke Rapids micropolitan comprises Roanoke Rapids plus two counties of North Carolina. There are about 21 colleges in Roanoke and surrounding areas within 50 miles. More than 170,000 students are enrolled in these colleges. 6% of the population in the micro area hold a postgraduate degree.

17. Mount Airy, NC Micro Area

Population: 71,359

Percentage of population aged between 18-24 with a college or associate degree: 36.9%

Percentage of population aged 25 and above with a bachelor’s degree or higher: 20.1%

Score: 0.58

Mount Airy’s rate of college education is 20% higher than the state average in North Carolina. It is one of the most educated small towns in America. Mount Airy High School is considered among the top ten schools in the state of North Carolina. 8% of the population aged 25 and above have completed a master’s or another advanced degree.

16. Alamogordo, NM Micro Area

Population: 67,839

Percentage of population aged between 18-24 with a college or associate degree: 36.7%

Percentage of population aged 25 and above with a bachelor’s degree or higher: 21.1%

Score: 0.59

Alamogordo, in New Mexico, has a median household income of $51,214, which is close to the state average. More than 80% of the population here is under the age of 65. Alamogordo’s youth has a high rate of educational attainment. 33% of the population in the town has completed high school education, which is 25% higher than the national average.

15. Shawnee, OK Micro Area

Population: 72,454

Percentage of population aged between 18-24 with a college or associate degree: 42.4%

Percentage of population aged 25 and above with a bachelor’s degree or higher: 19.1%

Score: 0.62

Next on our list of the most educated small towns in America is Shawnee in Oklahoma, which is an agricultural center for the growth of cotton, potatoes, and peaches. Shawnee is home to two universities and several public schools and colleges.

14. Greeneville, TN Micro Area

Population: 70,152

Percentage of population aged between 18-24 with a college or associate degree: 40.6%

Percentage of population aged 25 and above with a bachelor’s degree or higher: 21%

Score: 0.62

Greeneville is a small town in Tennessee that is named after General Nathanael Greene, a Revolutionary War hero. 89.1% of the population here has at least a high school diploma, which is nearly the same rate in both the state of Tennessee and the United States. Greeneville micro area is home to several top educational institutions, including the Walters State Community College and Tusculum University.

13. Morehead City, NC Micro Area

Population: 67,686

Percentage of population aged between 18-24 with a college or associate degree: 29.9%

Percentage of population aged 25 and above with a bachelor’s degree or higher: 32.5%

Score: 0.625

Morehead City is a highly educated town in North Carolina. It has a median household income of nearly $63,000 which is higher than the state average, and over 90% of the amount in the United States. 14% of the population aged 25 and above in Morehead has completed a postgraduate degree.

12. Somerset, KY Micro Area

Population: 65,034

Percentage of population aged between 18-24 with a college or associate degree: 46.6%

Percentage of population aged 25 and above with a bachelor’s degree or higher: 16%

Score: 0.63

Nearly half of Somerset’s youth have a college or associate degree. The micropolitan statistical area is one of the most educated small towns in America. There are about 10 colleges in the micro area. More than 13,000 students in 2021 completed degree programs in and around Somerset.

11. North Wilkesboro, NC Micro Area

Population: 65,969

Percentage of population aged between 18-24 with a college or associate degree: 44.8%

Percentage of population aged 25 and above with a bachelor’s degree or higher: 19.5%

Score: 0.64

North Wilkesboro is a town in North Carolina’s Wilkes County. It is one of the most educated small towns in America. More than 80% of the youth in the micro area have completed at least a high school diploma, while more than two-fifths hold a college or associate degree. The Appalachian State University is located 28 miles from North Wilkesboro and has more than 20,000 students enrolled.

Click to continue reading and see the 10 Most Educated Small Towns in America.

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Disclosure: None. 25 Most Educated Small Towns in America is originally published on Insider Monkey.

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