This article was originally published on DrGraduate
With a country so big, it's hardly surprising that education levels vary throughout the USA. There are some states where the majority of the people have multiple degrees, while there are some where a high school diploma is rare. And while measuring education is not as simple and straightforward as just counting degrees, plenty of factors can be analyzed to understand which states have the best - or the worst - education levels. So whether you are just curious or are deciding which state to live in, this is the list for you.
50 - Mississippi
If you had to guess which state was the least educated in the US, would you have thought of Mississippi? This state is usually the most famous for no one knowing how to spell it or for being used to properly count seconds. However, here is a new thing they can be famous (or infamous) for: being the least educated state in the US in terms of school systems and quality of education.
On the overall scale of things, they are actually considered a "D" in the chance of student success. Maybe it all stems from the difficult spelling of the state's name.
49 - West Virginia
You may not think that West Virginia would be the second-to-worst state in the US in terms of education, and yet it is. Both students and teachers suffer in the Mountain State. Teachers tend to have some of the lowest paychecks, the most stressful jobs, and the inability to afford good transportation to take them to their jobs. Sadly, struggling teachers also make for struggling students across the state.
The education system in West Virginia has been struggling for a long time now. Although the governments claim to be taking steps to improve the situation, they are acting very slowly and making little progress.
48 - Louisiana
Not only does Louisiana rank number 48 on the list of least educated states, but it also ranks number one on the list of most dangerous schools. Safety seems not to be a priority when it comes to school life in Louisiana, as the cases of bullying, violence, and children who are scared to go to school due to violence. They also have very low math and reading scores compared to other states.
It makes sense that if there is a high risk in the school for bullying and violence, people would be missing classes and thereby unable to properly learn as they need to pass the tests well.
47 - Arkansas
There are some states on this list that have multiple different reasons for the low rank regarding education. Sometimes it is more related to safety or teachers' salaries than other things. However, in Arkansas, it is very directly related to the average income and the poverty that is prevalent in the country. Arkansas is one of the poorest states in the US overall, and this is directly correlated to its education system.
Not only is income an issue in Arkansas, but as a result, most children in the state do not have parents that have gone to university or college and gotten a degree there.
46 - Alabama
Alabama may have once had a "luxurious" past in worse times in history, but things have definitely changed, and not for the better. The Heart of Dixie is currently listed as the 46th worst place to have an education. It doesn't come as too much of a surprise, however, as Alabama is also considered the 49th worst state to live in overall. It's a chicken or egg situation to see which came first.
Alabama ranked very low due to general school safety, very low reading scores, and very low student-to-teacher ratios. The general overall quality of education is also one of the lowest in the country.
45 - Kentucky
Kentucky comes in next on the list of least educated states in America. Although they are 45th on the list, there is some silver lining. Unlike in most other states, Kentucky does not see a big difference in education levels for different portions of society. For example, men and women and black and white adults generally have the same level (albeit low) of education. This is for adults over the age of 25.
If they can improve the general level of education for the overall population, that means that it would probably be improved for everyone equally, which is at least a step in the right direction.
44 - South Carolina
Although at first glance, you might not think that being the 44th least educated state in the US is a good thing (after all, there are only 50 states), and yet this is actually an improvement for South Carolina. Just a few years ago, South Carolina was actually ranked as the worst state for education, so coming up a few places is actually a good thing. Good for you, South Carolina!
South Carolina was low in the ranking for just about all of the categories, and yet they managed, with hard work, to improve the rankings and their overall education status. Kudos to South Carolina!
43 - Nevada
Introducing the first state on the bottom ten of this list not to be in the American South: Nevada comes in as the 43rd least-educated state in the US. Nevada, however, just like South Carolina, actually used to be among the very last on the list. So although things seem dismal, they are slowly improving. That is good news for the people of Nevada, and it will be interesting to see if they keep making their way up the list.
There are theories that the government is too focused on the casinos and partying that takes place in Las Vegas to spend much time or effort on the education system.
42 - New Mexico
Who comes in at the 42nd place in the least educated states in the country? That would be New Mexico. This might not come as too much of a surprise as the state is actually pretty lowly ranked in many different areas, including safety and healthcare. So it looks like education is not the only place that is taking a hit with the very low rankings, and they are across the board in the state.
Even though they ranked at number 42 on the list of education, their schools, in general, are actually known as being the worst in the country.
41 - Tennessee
41st on the list of least educated states, you will find Tennessee. Now there is something a bit ironic with Tennessee because, as you can see, they are pretty low on the overall list, standing at 41 out of 50. However, they actually have one of the highest graduation rates in the country, hitting the top 10 and standing at 88.5%. How is that possible, you might ask? Well, many kids don't even make it to high school.
As many kids don't make it to high school, that means that the ones who do are actually pretty likely to graduate. That is both good and bad. They just need to work on getting more people into high school.
40 - Oklahoma
Oklahoma may be the place where the "wind comes sweepin' down the plane," but it is not the best place to get an education in the US. If you look at the situation surrounding the state's funding, you won't be too surprised that they have very low high school graduation rates and low rates of bachelor's degrees. In 2008. the state cut funding to education by over 28%. That is no small number.
The teachers in Oklahoma get very low pay compared to other states, which doesn't help when the schools already struggle with budget cuts in general.
39 - Texas
Although Texas actually made it on the top 15 list when it comes to the quality of education, it ranked 39 when it comes to the most educated states. It seems like they offer great schools and services, but people just aren't going to the schools and using the education services that are offered to them. It is not like some of the other states where safety and low pay are the factors.
It isn't so clear at first why the total number of educated people in Texas is so low, considering the options available to them. Experts tend to say that residents just don't have proper access to the schooling systems.
38 - Arizona
Arizona may be 38th on the list of educated states in the US, but they are actually 8th on the list of states with the lowest graduation rates. The reasoning for the very low education rates in Arizona is quite clear, and it comes down to the language. Arizona is home to one of the most diverse populations in the US. Although this seems great, it makes it hard when many children don't have parents who speak fluent English.
Without having a solid ability to speak English fluently, children struggle to thrive in the education systems, which are predominately English. Programs with supplementary language assistance could make a huge difference here.
37 - Indiana
Indiana may offer decent higher education and high school systems; however, for the young people of the country, those who are in early education, the systems are quite lacking. Although 37 is not the worst of the worst, it is also not great. This shows the importance of early education and how children who do not have access to quality early education run the risk of suffering later on in life.
Indiana is actually the number 1 worst state in terms of early education. That is a big title for them to have and not the best or most desired one.
36 - Idaho
It looks like Oklahoma isn't the only state that has decided to cut its funding for education. Idaho did the same, or at least has a very severe lack of funding. As a result, Idaho is quite low on the list of educated states in the US. If you are considering being a student in Idaho, you should think again. Students receive, by far, the least funding and support from the state.
Of all the states in the US, in 2017, it was found that Idaho spent the least amount of money on its school system. Is anyone surprised that it then ranked as having the 14th worst school in the US?
35 - South Dakota
South Dakota's story is a bit of a confusing one. They actually have a pretty high number of residents who have a college degree (39%). This is quite a bit higher than many other states in the US. And yet, somehow, they are still number 35 on the list of least educated states in the US. How is that possible? It seems that South Dakotans actually leave the state once they get their degree, looking for work elsewhere.
Although they do have a high number of degrees within the state, they also have a pretty high dropout rate, which stands at 16.3%. South Dakota seems to be all over the place when it comes to education.
34 - Georgia
Unlike some of the states on this list, Georgia seems to rank pretty poorly in many different categories. It's not just one thing that has caused Georgia to drop to the bottom of the list. The quality of education is very low, at 39th place, and is at 33rd for its residents' educational attainment. There is a slight silver lining, and that is that they have decent school system safety.
The highest note for Georgia's education is that they ranked in 18th place for disparity for people in low-income areas in terms of getting a quality education.
33 - Ohio
Although you wouldn't think that being 33rd on the list of educated states (out of 50) would be a good thing, Ohio should be fairly proud of the fact that they have improved two places from the previous year. It's no easy task to work your way up the ladder of education levels in the state, so kudos to Ohio! Two places is not a huge jump, but if they keep it up, they will get there soon!
They do actually rank at 25 for the overall quality of education, which puts them right in the middle of the country. The reason they are lower on the overall list is because the access to education is low.
32 - California
California leads the country on a number of fronts, including their massive economy and huge population. These are qualities it shares with few other states at that scale. The only other one that comes close is its big brother in terms of land area, Texas. California's economy is much stronger, and in fact is the strongest of all the states, but their education levels are not too far off from each other.
Although they may not be aligned in everything, Californa and Texas do have their similarities. But California has been investing heavily in its education system so we'll have to keep an eye on how its ranking develops.
17 - Delaware
It looks like it's time to focus on the positive and move on from the negative. Now it is time to look at the list of most educated states in the US. Delaware is starting off the list in 17th place, making it on the list of the top 20 in the US. Despite what you might think, Delaware actually has a pretty small education budget, with only around 3% going to schooling, and yet they still rank quite high.
They are almost a whole percent less on the budget than the average of other states, and yet they have one of the best education levels in the country.
16 - Wyoming
Although Wyoming is often one of the more forgotten states in the country, it shouldn't be forgotten when it comes to education. Surprising to many, Wyoming actually ranks in 16th place when it comes to education in the US, and it only seems to be improving each year. The general system of education in the state is even higher on the list than the overall, standing at 10th in the country.
One of the most comforting facts about education in Wyoming is that it is actually one of the safest places to go to school in the country, helping it climb up the general ranks.
15 - Hawaii
Coming in at number 15 on the list, you will find Hwaii. You might not associate Hawaii with a great education, as it is much more commonly known for its beaches, volcanoes, and incredible experiences, but apparently its schooling is also great. Even more reason to move to Hawaii in the future, perhaps? They even have a staggeringly high number of college attendees, with 62.6% of adults aged 25 and over having attended college at some point.
It's surprising because Hawaii is actually the 13th poorest state in the US, and yet it still manages to have such a high level of education. It is very impressive at the end of the day.
14 - Oregon
The reason that Oregon is number 14 on this list is partially related to the fact that they do have a good school and education system, but also due to the fact that they have many big high-tech companies within their borders that tend to bring in highly educated people. So not necessarily everyone who lives there is educated, but the people who move there bring the numbers up.
Oregon also has one of the highest numbers of people with college degrees in the country, which would make sense based on all the other themes.
13 – New York
It probably doesn't come as much of a surprise that New York made it onto the list of most educated states in the country. After all, it does have the second-best ratings for universities in the country, so it would make sense that its general education and systems rank quite high as well. And most of these highly educated people live in none other than New York City itself.
There is a chance that you could have thought that New York actually would rank higher on the list considering that overall of the state and the country, but it didn't even make the top 20.
12 - Illinois
Illinois ranks quite high on the list of educated states in the country, and the reasoning is probably related to the very high rate of children who attend early education and pre-K classes. They have above average number of students who attend early education, and the schools are of high quality as well. It makes sense that that would have an impact on the overall at the end of the day.
Additionally, many families in the state have adults who have obtained degrees or gone through higher education. This means that their children are also more likely to do so.
11 - Utah
You probably wouldn't consider Utah, also known as The Beehive State, to be one of the most educated states in the country. After all, it's often a very forgotten state, one that is only visited by those who are avid hikers and nature enthusiasts. Utah, though has the 3rd highest quality of universities in the country and has the 2nd highest number of people with degrees in the country.
Despite the fact that Utah used to be in 9th place and has since dropped to 11th, it still has a pretty impressive story to tell when it comes to education.
10 - Minnesota
Now the time has come: drumroll for the top 10 most educated states in the country. Minnesota starts off the list, being at number 10. Although it is one of the poorer states in the country, you'd be surprised to see that they manage to handle its education budget quite well and prioritize it, resulting in its high ranking on the countrywide level. They weren't going to let finances prevent them from making a good school system.
Public schools in the country are actually quite well funded, which leads to a very high level of education across the state, bringing Minnesota so high on the list.
9 - New Jersey
New Jersey, the Garden State, has inched its way to the very top of the nationwide list. Although they do have some disturbing statistics that make you doubt the overall ranking, they still are in 9th place. The state has some very extreme gaps when it comes to education based on different races, with the state ranking in 34th place. The quality of the state's universities also was not high on the list, but they did have other good things to offer.
So it looks like New Jersey is a good place to live if you want a good education for your children, but they should consider another state for higher education.
8 - New Hampshire
Although New Hampshire has made it to the 8th place on this list, it is not all peaches and roses within the state. They do offer great education equality and one of the smallest educational attainment gaps in the country, and yet their quality of education is actually ranked quite lowly, standing in 20th place. Well, it's good to know that not everything is perfect, and hopefully, they are working to improve these things.
New Hampshire can brag about the fact that they have the second-highest percentage of people in the country who hold a high school diploma. That is something to be proud of.
7 - Washington
It almost seems fitting that the state of Washington would come in at number 7 on the list of educated states in the country. After all, they are also known as one of the happiest states in the country. Maybe it is related? They rank highly on the list of states whose adults have a degree (3rd in the country) and high on the number of residents who graduated high school.
Where do they fall short, you might ask? Well, it seems like almost nowhere, as they also have one of the smallest gaps when it comes to educational attainment between men and women.
6 - Virginia
You might notice that Virginia is a very clear exception when it comes to the list of educated states in the country so far based on geography alone. The majority of the states so far on the bottom of the list were located in the south, and now you can see that Virginia decided to take matters into their own hands and make it to 6th on the list. That is an impressive title!
Virginia can be most proud of the fact that their test scores are very high. This may also be related to the fact that Virginia is one of the wealthiest states in the country. Extra funding always helps!
5 - Connecticut
If you were impressed with the list of the top 10 most educated states in the country, you'd be even more impressed with the list of the top 5. Starting at the bottom of the list of the bests, you will find Connecticut. They have a very high percentage of children who attend school from an early age, which could be a huge contributing factor to their overall high rating.
Almost 66% of children in Connecticut attend preschool, which is 16% higher than the national average. That means as well that Kindergarten enrollment levels are also very high.
4 - Vermont
It looks like the Northeastern part of the country is dominating the list of most educated states in the US. It makes sense as they are also some of the wealthiest states in the country. When you have a lot of money to put into the school system, you can create a pretty amazing school system, just as Vermont has done. They actually have the highest amount of per-student spending in the country.
At least they put all the money to good use, and they have their school and education systems to show for it. They also offer great opportunities for people of all incomes.
3 - Colorado
It looks like Colorado wanted to make sure that not all of the states in the top 5 were located in the Northeast. Taking you out to the total other side of the country, you will find the 3rd place winner for the most educated state in the country. If you are a lover of nature, mountains, and beautiful scenery, consider moving to Colorado to study or have your kids be educated. It is a win-win for everyone.
Maybe it is the fact that they are surrounded by such extraordinary scenery that they just have the urge to also create amazing school systems.
2 - Maryland
Little old Maryland is the state that has taken the silver with the most educated states in the US. They ranked pretty highly across most categories, as would be expected. They have a high percentage of people holding degrees, as a matter of fact, the second highest in the country (is it directly correlated). It just goes to show what you can do when there is a lot of wealth involved.
The average income of residents in Maryland is the highest in the country. More money usually means more opportunities to expand and perfect the school system.
1 - Massachusetts
There is probably not a single person surprised about the fact that Massachusetts comes in at 1st place on the list of most educated states in the country. Two of the country's most famous and high-level universities are located there (Harvard University and MIT, in case you didn't know). It's no shock that the residents of the state are also highly educated and that the state takes education very, very seriously.
Massachusetts outranked the other states by a lot, taking the lead in almost all of the ranking categories.