Smart growth

The number of Americans with college degrees continues to grow, according to new federal census data. And Massachusetts, as expected, continues to lead the way with the highest percentage of adults 25 to 64 with a bachelor’s degree or higher.

In fact, the Bay State leads all states in all age categories and all levels of higher education attainment and the gap is growing. More than 42 percent of Massachusetts adults have a bachelor’s degree or higher, followed by Maryland and Connecticut at 38.6 and 38.4 percent, respectively. Massachusetts is the only state, in fact, where more than half of the adult population of 25 to 64 – 50.8 percent – has an associate’s degree or higher. Interestingly, though, Massachusetts ranks 16th for adults with a high school diploma.

But the good news in the federal data is that the number of those with college degrees rose for both genders and among all racial and ethnic groups, with young women in all groups outpacing men in the same age groups.

But there is bad news in the numbers and the downside is far more striking. A report from the Indiana-based Lumina Foundation released this morning analyzing the data shows that minorities and low-income students continue to trail their more affluent white counterparts. Part of the reason is that they are more likely to drop out of high school or not enroll in college. The data shows that only about 10 percent of students whose families are in the lowest quartile for income attained college degrees by the age of 24.

Overall, economics may indeed be the biggest factor in a college education, both completing one and not getting on. The data shows that more than half of college freshman who enrolled in 2006 did not graduate by 2012, a fact many experts attribute to high cost and crushing debt. One of the biggest sectors to show gains in enrollment and degree attainment was older adults, who can both better afford the education as well as see the benefits more clearly than their younger classmates.

An analysis of employment figures shows that those with a college degree have fared better during the recent recession and job prospects are much better than for those without a sheepskin. Since the end of 2007, the number of college graduates with jobs increased by 9 percent while employment has dropped for everyone else. The most recent unemployment figures show unemployment among young adults 25 to 34 with college degrees was 3.3 percent, while those in the same age group with a high school diploma but no college degree was nearly 12 percent. The state of Massachusetts’ economic recovery bears that out, as the unemployment went down sooner and faster than it did nationally but areas such as Fall River, New Bedford, Brockton, and other urban areas with lower college rates and lower incomes continue to struggle with higher joblessness.

“Maybe you don’t need a bachelor’s to change bedpans,” Sandy Baum, a senior fellow at the George Washington University Graduate School of Education, tells the New York Times, “but today if you’re an auto mechanic, you really have to understand computers and other technical things.”

All these numbers are happening against the backdrop of a push in Washington by Democrats, led by Sen. Elizabeth Warren, to bring debt and cost relief to students with the interest rate on guaranteed loans set to double. President Obama is lobbying Congress to pass the bills to tie student interest rates to government borrowing rates.

Not everyone is on the college-as-investment bandwagon, though. George Leef, director of research at the John William Pope Center for Higher Education Policy in North Carolina, writes in Forbes that a college degree as a growth investment in your working future is a bunch of hot air. He says opening up access to more degrees will only water down the value of the paper, not raise the marketability of the holder.

“College used to look like a good ‘investment’ because earning a degree usually entailed at least some serious work and, having done it ,set the individual apart,” Leef writes. “These days, with the labor market saturated with college graduates, the time and money spent on college is often wasted.”

                                                                                                                                                                    –JACK SULLIVAN

BEACON HILL

Paul Cellucci, who displayed both “leadership and decency,” says a Globe editorial, will lie in honor today in the State House Hall of Flags rotunda.

The Globe surveys the range of opinion among economists on the impact of raising the minimum wage, a proposal for which is now pending on Beacon Hill.

MUNICIPAL MATTERS

A Methuen police officer, Methuen firefighters, and a Haverhill city councilor allegedly were among the customers of a Lawrence brothel. The Eagle-Tribune has already asked all nine Haverhill councilors whether they frequented the Day Spa for Gentlemen and they all denied it.

By a 2-1 vote, Somerset selectmen opted to appoint someone to the unfilled school committee seat that was left vacant after a tie vote, rather than hold a special election or flip a coin.

Foxboro selectmen have to vote a second time to let their town manager walk, after initially declining to extend his contract behind closed doors.

NATIONAL POLITICS/WASHINGTON

A felon pens a heartfelt thank-you letter to the NRA for dispensing with those pesky background checks.

The Atlantic looks at the current state of walking-around money.

John Boehner fails to make Kate Upton’s birthday a happy one.

ELECTIONS

President Obama stumps for Democratic Senate candidate Ed Markey. Bill Clinton is on deck next, and Markey is also looking for help from New Hampshire.

The Globe reports that Gabriel Gomez participated in “relatively few deals” during his years at a private equity firm that he touts in promoting his business background. Gomez is getting a financial lift from Michele Bachmann’s former presidential campaign treasurer.

The New York Times looks at the non-sexual-harassment side of Anthony Weiners stint in Congress. The profile appears to be an unflattering companion piece to a controversial article in which the Times quoted would-be mayor Christine Quinn about her willingness to “open up the bitch tap and let the water run.”

BUSINESS/ECONOMY

The number of pending home sales in the state last month was the highest in nine years, according to figures released by the Massachusetts Association of Realtors.

Cape employers head to Washington to complain about restrictions on hiring non-immigrant foreign workers.

EDUCATION

Officials from Google, Microsoft, and Intel tell lawmakers there is a serious shortage of workers with STEM skills and warn that the economy will suffer unless the problem is addressed, CommonWealth reports.

HEALTH CARE

Citing safety and cost concerns, Harvard Pilgrim Health Care says it will no longer cover drugs made at specialty compounding pharmacies, facilities that have been at the center of a tainted-drug scandal. Patient advocates and families that rely on compounded drugs aren’t happy.

TRANSPORTATION

MassDOT tries to take on the problem of the last mile, writes Peter O’Connor in CommonWealth.

The MBTA releases the photos of three women who allegedly threw bleach in a man’s face and then robbed him on a bus in Roxbury, NECN reports.

The research is in, and cars that feature operations with voice commands are more distracting than cell phones.

ENERGY/ENVIRONMENT

A decision by the Fairhaven Board of Health ordering the town’s two wind turbines to turn off at night could cut the revenue for both the town and the developer by as much as half.

Duxbury officials said they will refund the money — as much as $295 for a non-resident — to anyone who purchased a sticker to drive on the town’s popular beach which it closed because of nesting piping plovers.

CRIMINAL JUSTICE

WBUR offers extensive coverage of the opening statements in the Whitey Bulger trial, including the defense’s contention that Bulger was not an informant but someone who was paying the FBI for protection. And so much for the “Whitey kept the drugs out of Southie” myth that some peddled for eons. Peter Gelzinis notes that Bulger’s lawyer let 80 percent of the murders his client is facing go unchallenged during opening arguments, in favor of propping up Bulger’s “I’m no rat” image. Howie Carr is delighted that JW Carney is devoting so much attention to this guy. The trial has most of Boston riveted — with the notable exception of one sleepy alternate juror.

A special ed teacher from Swampscott pleads guilty to possessing child pornography, the Salem News reports. The man said he didn’t think it was illegal to look at pictures if you didn’t pay for them.

The incidence of elder abuse is growing but officials think it is a continuing problem that is underreported.