Tarrant County has made strides in the number of residents with post-high school credentials, but still lags behind some major Texas counties and the overall state, new figures show.
Tarrant County has the 17th highest rate of attainment out of the state’s 254 counties, according to a new report from the Lumina Foundation, an Indianapolis-based organization working to boost workforce readiness.
Almost 42% of Tarrant County residents have earned industrial-level credentials or at least an associate degree. Since 2009, the county’s attainment rate – or level of education – has increased by 5.5 percentage points.
Post-secondary credentials, such as associate degrees and industry-level certifications, help improve people’s quality of life and play an important role in luring business to the area, Tom Harris, chair of Mayor Mattie Parker’s Council on Education and Workforce Development, previously told the Fort Worth Report.
“We can’t attract companies to Alliance and to Fort Worth unless you’ve got a qualified, educated and trained workforce,” Harris, executive vice president of Hillwood, previously said.
Compared to Texas, though, Tarrant County’s increase looks small. Since 2009, the state has gained 16.4 percentage points for an attainment rate of 49.6%, which means about one in every two people have a degree or credential.
The state’s attainment rate grew partly because of population growth and the addition of workforce certificates in 2014 and industry certifications in 2018, according to the Lumina Foundation.
By 2025, 60% of adults in the U.S. will need a credential beyond a high school diploma, according to the foundation.
Courtney Brown, Lumina’s vice president of planning and impact, described the state’s attainment growth, which is higher than the national average, as incredible. Still, Texas has room for improvement, she said.
Texas is in the bottom third tier of states in Lumina’s report, called “A Stronger Nation.” Washington, D.C., has the highest attainment rate in the nation, with 72.4% of residents with a credential higher than a high school diploma. Massachusetts, Utah and Colorado are the other states with the highest attainment rates.
“There really has been tremendous progress, and your institutions and policy makers are aware of many of these issues and are really pushing on it,” Brown said.
Texas has its own attainment goal. By 2030, the state wants 60% of Texas between 25 and 64 to have a quality degree or other post-secondary credential.
Credentials matter when looking for jobs
In Tarrant County, about 65% of jobs require a postsecondary credential, according to the Tarrant To & Through Partnership, an organization that supports students through college and career advising.
The T3 Partnership, school districts and higher education institutions are working together to get more Tarrant County residents a degree or credential.
Tarrant County College plays a key role in degree and credential attainment. TCC has partnerships with Fort Worth-area school districts to provide high school students opportunities to earn college credit, an associate degree or a credential.
Last summer, Chancellor Elva LaBlanc described TCC as a driving force behind providing high quality and accessible education and workforce skills training. But LeBlanc sees TCC’s work as more than that.
“It helps our students, particularly those who are economically and socially disadvantaged, and gives them a leg up,” she told a group in Colleyville. “Education is the elevator that gets people in a better financial position.”
Room for growth in Latino community
One area Brown sees room for growth in Texas is boosting Latino attainment numbers.
Nearly 6 million Latinos live in Texas, but under one in four have a credential beyond a high school diploma, according to Lumina. White Texans have an attainment rate of 51.6%.
“Thinking about your populations of color in Texas would help you get over the finish line,” Brown said.
Another way Brown suggested that could help attainment rates is to focus on older residents who are considered non-traditional students. Many of them have credentials, but want to re-skill or learn new skills to find better jobs, she said.
The Fort Worth area has nearly 1 million jobs that pay above the living wage of more than $18 an hour and most do not require a bachelor’s degree.
“What can your colleges in Fort Worth do to think about that? What are the jobs we have there that are going unfilled or that we’re having to bring talent from outside the local community and outside of the state to fill those jobs?” Brown said.
Disclosure: Hillwood is a financial supporter of the Fort Worth Report. At the Fort Worth Report, news decisions are made independently of our board members and financial supporters. Read more about our editorial independence policy here.
Jacob Sanchez is an enterprise journalist for the Fort Worth Report. Contact him at email@example.com or via Twitter.