Education in Appalachia

The Appalachian Region continues to see improvements in all levels of educational attainment. In 2019, the number of Appalachian adults ages 25 and over with at least a high school diploma has risen more than two percentage points to 87%, with the greatest improvement in adults ages 65 and over. The Region’s high school completion prevalence is now almost equal to that of the country.

Appalachia continues to lead the nation in Associate’s Degrees and the share of adults ages 25 and over in the Region with at least a bachelor’s degree has risen to 24%. However, despite these increases, the prevalence of four-year college completion among adults remains well below the U.S. average in many parts of the Region.

Learn more about education trends in Appalachia below.

Educational Attainment

87.2%
High School Diploma
8.9%
Associate’s Degree
24.7%
Bachelor’s Degree

87.2% of Appalachian adults ages 25 and over have earned a high school diploma, similar to the U.S. average of 88%. This two-percentage-point increase is likely due to the rising share of adults attaining a bachelor’s degree or more.

Meanwhile, the share of Appalachian adults ages 25 and over with an associate’s degree but no bachelor’s degree was 8.9% in 2015-2019—almost a full percentage point higher than in 2010-2014, exceeding the national average at 8.5%.

Similarly, the share of adults ages 25 and over in the Region with at least a bachelor’s degree also rose by 2.5 percentage points since 2010-2014 and now exceeds 24%, compared to the national average at 32%.

Change in Educational Attainment

Bachelor’s Degree

More than 26.2% of Appalachian adults ages 25-64 hold a bachelor’s degree. Though more people hold a bachelor’s now than in 2014, there are educational attainment differences in Appalachia’s subregions. Northern Appalachia leads in bachelor’s degrees, while Central Appalachia is at 15.2%, 18.3 percentage points below the national average.

 

STEM Education

Among adults in Appalachia with a bachelor’s degree or more, the share with a degree in the science and engineering field was nearly 31% in 2015-2019, nearly half a percentage point higher than it was in 2010-2014.