Much of Central Texas Lags Behind Nation in Education, Baylor Researchers Find

Sept. 22, 2009

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Nearly one fourth of Waco adults age 25 or older do not have a high school diploma, lagging behind state and national levels as well as McLennan and Bell counties and the city of Killeen, according to a Baylor University analysis of new U.S. Census Bureau data.

The information from the 2008 American Community Survey is "another call to action" for community leaders, said Dr. Larry Lyon, director of Baylor's Center for Community Research and Development, which conducted the analysis.

He is assisting in a community effort, led by Waco Mayor Virginia DuPuy, to address education problems.

Nationally, more than 15 percent of people age 25 and older did not have diplomas. More than 20 percent in Texas did not.

Another deficit: Central Texas trails the national average of college graduates and those with graduate or professional degrees, said Dr. Carson Mencken, a Baylor sociology professor and researcher.

The data is particularly troubling because Waco is reasonably large with well-developed urban areas and several colleges and universities, said Dr. Robyn Driskell, a community specialist with the center.

"Continued progress and development hinges increasingly on a quality, educated work force," she said. "We need to redouble our efforts to update education attainment locally."

On a positive note, Central Texas fared better than the state or nation in the 25-and-older category as far as attending some college or earning an associate's degree.

Center researchers will continue to delve into new information from the 2008 American Community Survey, said Dr. Charles Tolbert, chair of Baylor's Department of Sociology and research scientist.

"For more populated places, we no longer have to wait 10 years for a decennial Census to get a local reading on socioeconomic factors such as poverty, income and education," he said. The center now receives annual updates on Bell and McLennan counties and the cities of Killeen and Waco.

The center, established in 1979, aids organizations, businesses, agencies and government entities by providing community data to aid in decision-making.

Contact: Terry Goodrich, Assistant Director of Media Communications, (254) 710-3321

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