Postsecondary Trends Threaten Workforce Needs
Fact Book Documents Challenges to Education Attainment Goals

News SREB News Release

Postsecondary attainment continues a slow climb in the South, according to the 2019 Fact Book on Higher Education.
Population and college enrollment trends are beginning to slow at a time when advancing technology and artificial intelligence are shifting the workplace to demand higher-level skills. And affordability remains a stubborn challenge to students and families and to states trying raise state education attainment levels to grow their economies.
“Within the next 10 years, SREB states face serious challenges in meeting workforce needs,” said SREB President Stephen L. Pruitt. “K-12 and postsecondary education will need to combine efforts to prepare more people for middle-skills jobs as well as high-skill ones.” >

Enrollment: College enrollment declined 3% in the SREB region and 5% nationally from 2012 to 2017. Enrollment dropped in 14 of the 16 SREB states.

Enrollment at four-year institutions was almost flat nationwide and grew only about 2% in the SREB region. Two-year college enrollment dropped 11% nationwide and 10% in the SREB region
“The drop at two-year colleges is troubling, because they enroll more of the non-traditional-age students returning to complete credentials or to learn new skills as lower-skill jobs disappear,” said Susan Campbell-Lounsbury, SREB director of education data services and author of the Fact Book.

Undergraduate Enrollment by Race and Ethnicity, SREB Region. 2012: White 56% Black 23% Hispanic 15% All other 6%. 2017: White 52% Black 20% Hispanic 19% All other 9%.

Attainment: Among adults 25 to 64 years old, 39% held an associate degree or higher in 2017, up from 36% in 2012 but lower than the 2017 national average of 42%.
The population pipeline: K-12 enrollment in the SREB region is still growing faster than the national average, and high school graduation rates are up. But by the early 2030s, the South will experience a slowdown in school and college enrollments.

Affordability: In-state costs at public four-year institutions increased 4% from 2016-17 to 2017-18 in the SREB region and 2% nationally. Pell Grant dollars to students dropped nearly 6% in the region, and the number of Pell Grant recipients dropped 18%. The South led other regions in state scholarships and grants, at 43% of the nation’s total.

Dual Enrollment 
Dual enrollment is growing in the Southern region. From 2014-15 to 2016-17, the percentage of college graduates who had taken college courses while in high school increased in 10 of the 12 SREB states that report this information.

About the Fact Book 
2019 Fact Book coverSince 1956, the SREB Fact Book on Higher Education has chronicled progress in the South as states raised their education attainment levels year after year. Accurate data and comparisons allow state and institution leaders to track progress, understand trends, and guide their efforts to meet goals for postsecondary attainment.

For all 50 states and the District of Columbia, the Fact Book covers:

  • Population and economic trends that drive education
  • Enrollment and graduation by type of college and degree
  • Tuition and fees
  • State and federal financial aid
  • Faculty salaries
  • College revenues and expenditures
  • State and federal funding for higher education

Find Fact Book essays, spreadsheets and charts, plus individual Featured Facts booklets for the 16 SREB states, at Book tables are updated continually online.

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Media Contact: Beth Day, (404) 879-5544

A nonprofit, nonpartisan interstate compact, SREB was created in 1948 by Southern governors and legislators who recognized the link between education and economic vitality. SREB states are Alabama, Arkansas, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Mississippi, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia and West Virginia.​