Mark Jewel, AP, June 29, 2006
BOSTON — New England’s reputation as a haven for the highly educated could erode if current demographic trends continue and the region fails to invest more in colleges and universities, according to a report to be released Thursday by a regional education foundation.
Most New England states can expect declines in the percentage of young workers holding bachelor’s degrees or higher, with the steepest drops expected in Massachusetts and Connecticut, researchers conclude in a study commissioned by the Nellie Mae Education Foundation.
The “New England 2020” report attributes the decline primarily to population growth among young minorities outpacing gains by majority whites, and a widening education attainment gap between minorities and whites, who are more likely to complete college.
“We are going to begin to see that we won’t have as high a level of educational attainment as we have had,” the study’s co-author, Stephen Coelen, a University of Connecticut economist, said Wednesday. “We simply have to improve the educational performance of those minority populations and their access to higher education.”
The changes could hurt a region that prides itself on its highly educated work force and prestigious colleges and universities.
“Should these losses materialize, the vaunted educational advantages of New England will have evaporated in the space of three decades,” the report says.
However, the minority population gains and an influx of immigrants are expected to help offset another negative trend: an expected decline in the population of working-age New England residents. Growth in nonwhite populations will help supply the region with the workers it needs as the population ages and more people retire, Coelen said.