A new report conducted by Carolina Demography and the John M. Belk Endowment identifies gaps within North Carolina’s educational pipeline in the hopes of improving education attainment for certain demographic groups and strengthening in-state talent.
The Leaky Pipeline Report comes at a time when recent projections from myFutureNC set out a statewide goal to ensure that two million North Carolinians, aged 25 to 44, will attain a postsecondary degree or credential by the year 2030.
Currently, 47 percent of North Carolina adults aged 25 to 64 have a postsecondary degree or non-degree credential, but this percentage must increase to meet the needs of the evolving North Carolina job markets over the next decade.
Findings from the North Carolina Labor and Economic Analysis Division report that jobs in health care support staff, computer and mathematical occupations, personal care, service occupations and technical occupations are expected to grow in the state. Employers in these sectors will expect their workers to have received more than a high school degree.
Rebecca Tippett is the director of Carolina Demography, a research consulting service based in the Carolina Population Center. Carolina Demography primarily conducts demographic research focused on North Carolina and the Southeast.
“The challenge is that we are seeing an increase in demand and concerns that we are not producing at a pace fast enough to keep up with that demand, and in particular we are not producing enough of our own talent,” Tippett said. “We are doing a lot of importation from other places.”
The Leaky Pipeline Report analyzed the North Carolina in-state, public postsecondary pipeline which follows the transition of public school students from elementary school through the completion of postsecondary education at a UNC-system university or a North Carolina Community College.
According to the report, an increasing amount of public school students fall out of the pipeline during the transition from high school to postsecondary education. The report highlights the large racial and ethnic disparities that exist in the likelihood of students transitioning to, and completing, North Carolina postsecondary institutions based on differences in students’ geographic location, sex and race or ethnicity.
“There are concerns that the state is falling behind on certain indicators, but there was no consensus or no clear knowledge about where there were opportunities to intervene and how the State is serious about meeting its job (on) broader objectives (like) where can it intervene, so that it can make change,” Tippett said.
Carolina Demography and the Belk Endowment hope the results of the report will help state legislatures identify gaps and intervention opportunities to improve public education for at-risk demographic groups that are less likely to enroll, attend or complete public postsecondary education in North Carolina.
“When we partnered with Carolina Demography to commission this report, we knew that less than half of working-age North Carolinians had earned a credential beyond a high school diploma, but much of the story remained unclear,” President and Board Chairperson of the John M. Belk Endowment MC Belk Pilon told UNC Communications. “It’s our hope that research like this can help us better understand how we’ve arrived at our current statewide attainment rate and inform opportunities to increase attainment so that more North Carolinians will be equipped with the knowledge and skills needed to succeed in our evolving labor market.”
Although the data shows what type of student is falling out of the education pipeline and what point in their careers they are doing so, it does not explain why students are dropping out of the education pipeline when they do. Regardless, Tippett said there are different interventions the state may consider incorporating to help affected students like college counseling over the summer or resources to help students submit paperwork.
“I think there is kind of information in the report for anybody to pick up and identify some potential opportunity areas,” Tippett said. “And the opportunity areas may be different whether you are in an urban area or a rural area. It may be different whether you are targeting, for example, minority men versus young women. The loss points may be a little bit different, but I think it is a little bit of just knowing what is it you are trying to achieve and then working backwards and saying where are there opportunities to shift that.”
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