Study finds New York City lagging behind in percentage of college grads

Courtesy of NYC Comptroller

New York City ranked sixth nationally for its percentage of residents with college degrees, according to a September report issued by the New York City Comptroller’s Office.

The report found that in 2010, only 45.7 percent of working-age New Yorkers — between ages 25 and 64 — had an associate’s degree or higher, and 38.7 percent had a four-year bachelor’s degree or higher.

“This suggests that New York City is highly dependent on sources other than its own public school system to supply the educated workforce its economy needs,” the report stated.

These numbers put the city at least five points behind other mid-range metropolitan cities like Seattle and Minneapolis-St. Paul and almost 10 points lower than nearby Boston.


New York City also placed sixth in the average percent of high school freshmen to graduate from city schools. It was reported to have 57 percent, in comparison to cities like San Francisco and Boston that had 77 percent and 69 percent, respectively.

In addition, the report found that only 21 percent of graduates from city schools end up completing a two- or four-year degree within six years of graduating.

“It’s no secret that college readiness is a major problem facing the public school system,” a spokesman for the Comptroller’s office said. “This report joins the ongoing conversation…This first report is [just] a snapshot.”

Harold Wechsler, NYU professor and author of a research textbook titled “The History of Higher Education,” placed some of the blame for the low numbers on decades of cuts to public higher education.

“CUNY and SUNY have endured a generation of state and city budget cuts, which force up tuition [for prospective students],” Wechsler said.

Phil Joly, a State University of New York Purchase graduate, said he was less shocked with the results.

“I wouldn’t call it very surprising,” he said. “As a whole, the system is pretty accessible, but for most, people getting higher education is much more of a financial or cultural decision.”

The first in his family to go to college, Joly said he is still paying off his loans — something he says can be a deterrent for a college education.

But Gallatin freshman Hannah Cohen said she was perplexed when informed about the results of the report.

“Those numbers are pretty surprising,” Cohen said. “You pretty much need either a bachelor’s or master’s degree here if you don’t want to resign yourself to the service industry.”

A version of this article appeared in the Thursday, Oct. 4 print edition. Andrew Karpan is a contributing writer. Email him at [email protected]



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