Florida TaxWatch Looks at Educational Attainment in Florida, the Benefits of Postsecondary Learning and Training

This week, Florida TaxWatch (FTW) released a new report entitled “The Economic and Fiscal Impacts of Education and Training Beyond High School in Florida,” which assesses the rate of educational attainment in Florida and presents benefits of postsecondary learning through trainings, certificates, credentials, and degrees.

The report also identifies effective workforce development programs throughout the state and offers policy considerations to help replicate that framework.

Florida TaxWatch President and CEO Dominic Calabro weighed in on the report on Thursday.

“Florida’s strong and exceptionally quick recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic has secured its place as the 15th largest economy in the world. This is no minor feat and certainly worth celebrating, but we must remain focused on the future, making strategic investments in education and training opportunities beyond high school to ensure those who call the Sunshine State home can develop the specialized skillsets required to find gainful employment, remain self-sufficient, and compete in tomorrow’s marketplace,” Calabro said.

“It makes sense for individuals to prepare themselves, and it makes sense for our state as well. This report shows that improving educational attainment across all demographic groups would result in an annual earnings boost of $53.6 billion, increase the state’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) by $58.9 billion each year, and raise tax revenue by $4.7 billion annually. Creating opportunities for learners will really benefit all of us,” he added.

“In order to maintain and ultimately raise Florida’s enviable global standing – while also bolstering the services our society relies so heavily upon, such as nursing and teaching – local leaders and policymakers have to prioritize affordable, accessible, and effective workforce development that will reinforce the education-to-workforce pipeline,” Calabro said in conclusion.“To meet our talent targets today and tomorrow, we should focus on a broad array of degrees, certificates, apprenticeships, and value-added postsecondary training efforts, ensuring that all demographic groups throughout the state have the opportunity to achieve success. Florida TaxWatch is proud to support this important effort through this latest report and others in our extensive portfolio of research.”

“The findings in this Florida TaxWatch report affirm FCAN’s mission that, for the state to reach its full potential, students outside the mold of the ‘traditional’ post-secondary student cannot be left behind,” said Charleita Richardson, the executive director of the Florida College Access Network. “It is imperative for Florida to close the attainment gap among these groups.”

In 2019, under the SAIL (Strengthening Alignment between Industry and Learning) to 60 initiative, the Florida Legislature set a goal to ensure 60 percent of working-age Floridians pursue postsecondary learning by the year 2030. As of today, FTW notes 6.6 million state residents need education or training beyond high school in order to reach this SAIL to 60 goal. Ten years from now, as the state’s population grows, that threshold will rise to 6.9 million. In 20 years, it will be 7.4 million.

According to FTW, 43 percent of the working-age population in Florida currently holds an associate’s, bachelor’s, or graduate degree. However, degree attainment rates for Hispanic and Black demographic groups are behind the statewide average, at 38 percent and 31 percent respectively. And while degrees are most often pursued by women, aligning with trends across the nation, more men have non-degree credentials than women. Moving forward, growing populations and demographic shifts will present opportunities to increase the state’s specialized workforce.

FTW highlights that, though Florida’s traditional college- and working-aged populations have grown by approximately seven percent and twelve percent respectively since 2010, annual enrollment in postsecondary institutions has declined by 12 percent in that same timeframe. Enrollment among White and Black demographics declined by 25 percent from 2010 to 2020, but despite the overall trend, Asian and Hispanic enrollment actually increased, with the Hispanic demographic almost doubling enrollment over a 20-year period.

As might be expected, the top 60 percent of earners in Florida possess higher educational attainment rates, including 22 percent with a graduate degree, 31 percent with a bachelor’s degree, and 11 percent with an associate’s degree. When adjusting different demographics’ educational attainment rates, FTW found that 954,500 more Whites, 809,000 more Hispanics, 564,000 more Blacks, and 13,900 more Asians needed to be receiving degrees in order to match these target levels. This same research indicates that improving educational attainment across all demographic groups would derive an aggregate earnings boost of $53.6 billion, increase Gross Domestic Product (GDP) by $58.9 billion, and raise tax revenue by $4.7 billion annually, in addition to improving individual health, social fulfilment, and more.

To overcome persisting barriers to postsecondary learning, FTW presents the following recommendations:

• Promote academic readiness throughout the education system.

• Connect current and future workers to data-informed career-planning resources.

• Expect and facilitate learning pathways that allow students multiple ways to participate in postsecondary training and education.

• Empower community-based solutions and partnerships.

• Maintain and enhance affordability of training and education beyond high school.

• Encourage the persistence of active learners and the return of “stop-out” students.

• Design, implement, and advertise learning programs that offer multiple outcomes for student success.

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