Educational attainment can be used as a measure of the quality of the resident labor force, and Minnesota is well known for the quality of education. For instance, more than 28.5 percent of Minnesota’s adult population held a bachelor’s degree or higher in 2008, which was more than 3.5 percent higher than the national comparison. Less than 10 percent of Minnesotans aged 18 years and over did not graduate from high school or earn their GED, as compared to nearly 16 percent nationwide.
Unlike the other counties in Southwest Minnesota, Lyon County has competitive educational attainment rates with the state of Minnesota, thanks to the presence of Southwest Minnesota State University in Marshall. Nearly 90 percent of the adult population had at least a high school diploma or GED, while one in four people (24.6%) had a bachelor’s degree or higher. Another third (33.5%) had some college experience or an associate degree, which was nearly identical to the state’s educational attainment rate.
A slightly different picture emerges when looking at educational attainment by age group, which removes the influence of Lyon County’s slightly older population. For younger people aged 18 to 24 years, less than 7 percent have not graduated high school, as compared to 13.1 percent statewide. Just over 8 percent have an associate’s degree already by the age of 24, as compared to only 7.0 percent statewide; and the gap is even bigger for 18 to 24 year olds who have earned a bachelor’s degree or higher (14.8% vs. 10.7%).
Lyon County remains ahead of the state for associate’s, bachelor’s, and higher degrees into the 25 to 34 year old age group as well, with even bigger gaps above the state in both cases (15.7% vs. 12.7% in associate’s degrees; 40.4% vs. 35.1% in bachelor’s degrees or higher). Lyon County essentially matches the state in higher educational attainment in the 35 to 44 year old age group, with about half (47.1%) of the people holding associate’s, bachelor’s, or higher degrees. Educational attainment starts to slip behind the state in the older age groups, with just over a third (35.3%) of 45 to 64 year olds and only 15.5 percent of senior citizens earning associate’s, bachelor’s, or higher degrees. Instead, nearly a third (30.2%) of people aged 65 years and over in Lyon County did not graduate high school, and less than 25 percent even attended college. See Table 2-11.