News - Northeast Ohio Gains Brains in Talent Arms Race

Eager college graduates and their proud families are celebrating a significant personal and professional lifetime milestone this spring.  The region’s economy also has reason to celebrate as college enrollment and degree completion continue to rise across Northeast Ohio.
According to data being released today by the Northeast Ohio Council on Higher Education (“NOCHE”), a nonprofit organization that brings business and higher education together for economic development, the college attainment rate of Northeast Ohio residents has eclipsed 30 percent and has been steadily climbing for at least four years.  This shows that Northeast Ohio is retaining more of its college graduates—educated talent needed to attract and keep high-growth, high-wage jobs in Ohio.  Currently, about 33,500 students earn associate’s, bachelor’s or advanced degrees in Northeast Ohio annually, up 11 percent since 2006.  Northeast Ohio has about 925,000 residents with a college degree.
“NOCHE has concentrated effort on improving college access and completion through the Northeast Ohio Talent Dividend, and we are really encouraged by the region’s progress,” says NOCHE Executive Director Ann Womer Benjamin.  “The most encouraging evidence is the rising proportion of the region’s population with college degrees, which is critical to developing the workforce needed in a globally competitive economic environment.”
Trends indicate that the increase in regional college attainment will continue rising, thanks to intensive efforts by the region’s colleges and universities to recruit, retain and graduate more college students.  Northeast Ohio higher education institutions, which currently enroll more than 50,000 new undergraduate students annually, have increased new student enrollment by 20 percent since 2006.  Total undergraduate and graduate enrollment has increased by 24 percent to more than 226,000 in that time.
National research from a variety of sources repeats the same conclusion: regions with higher levels of educational attainment enjoy higher wages, lower unemployment and more prosperity.  In Northeast Ohio, the unemployment rate for associate’s and bachelor’s degree holders is about half of the unemployment rate for those without postsecondary education.
“Occupations in Northeast Ohio requiring at least some postsecondary education will grow faster, pay higher wages and have a substantially lower prospect of facing long-term unemployment,” says Dan Meges, an economist with Chmura Economics & Analytics.  “In fact, average annual wages in the region are more than double for those with at least an associate’s degree compared to those with high school education or less.”
Cultivating a college-going culture remains a challenge in Northeast Ohio, which has historically had lower levels of college attainment than other regions across the United States.  The goal of the Northeast Ohio Talent Dividend is to increase the number of college degree holders in the region from 897,000 in 2009 to one million in 2014.  The initiative pursues strategies to improve college readiness, increase student retention to degree completion and increase degree attainment among adults with some college and no degree.
Last fall, the Ohio Board of Regents launched OhioMeansSuccess, a website for helping students and families get the information they need to prepare for, search for, and pay for college in Ohio.  OhioMeansSuccess was developed jointly by the Ohio Board of Regents, NOCHE and ideastream, a nonprofit multiple-media public service organization home to WVIZ, WCPN and WCLV.  Visit for more information.


NOCHE: Connecting business and higher education