The Most Educated States and Least Educated States in the US of 2022

Find out which states have the highest levels of educational attainment and which ones have the least.

The Most Educated States and Least Educated States in the US of 2022
Christian Lendl

Educational attainment is seen by many Americans as a significant factor in overall success in life, even if this belief is misguided. And yet, despite the strong emphasis on college education in the United States, only 20.2% of people aged 25 years and older hold a bachelor’s degree, according to the Census Bureau’s 2020 American Community Survey. A higher percentage of the same population group has some college but no degree, at 20.3%. However, how does the US overall compare to individual states and their levels of educational attainment?

BrokeScholar conducted a study to identify the most educated states and the least educated states in the US. The study included factors such as the percentage of the population aged 18 to 24 years-old that have a bachelor’s degree or higher — including overall, females, and males — as well as the percentage of the population aged 25 years and older who have a bachelor’s degree or higher, also including the overall rate and the rates for females and males. Each factor was scored and then each factor score was added up to an overall score, which was then used to rank all 50 states.

Read on for the full, detailed breakdown of the most educated states and least educated states in America of 2022.

The Most Educated States in the US of 2022

Based on the analysis and scoring, the top 10 most educated states in the US tend to be geographically located in the Northeast, with a couple of states laying elsewhere. If the District of Columbia, which is not, of course, a state, were included, then it would top the list. But since this is a study of the most educated states, it’s been excluded from the rankings.

Below is a table breaking down the most educated states in the US, including various detailed statistics:

States

Population 18 to 24 years: Bachelor's degree or higher

Population 25 years and over: Bachelor's degree

Population 25 years and over: Graduate or professional degree

Population 25 years and over: Bachelor's degree or higher

Massachusetts

19.1%

24.5%

20.0%

44.5%

New Jersey

17.8%

24.8%

15.9%

40.7%

Connecticut

16.9%

22.2%

17.9%

40.0%

New York

17.6%

20.9%

16.5%

37.5%

Maryland

14.6%

21.8%

19.1%

40.9%

Colorado

13.2%

26.0%

15.6%

41.6%

Virginia

13.8%

22.4%

17.2%

39.5%

New Hampshire

14.1%

23.0%

14.5%

37.6%

Minnesota

14.6%

24.2%

12.6%

36.8%

Vermont

12.2%

23.5%

16.1%

39.7%

Four out of the top five states are located in the U.S. Census Bureau-designated Northeast region. Maryland, the fifth most educated state, lays technically in the U.S. South region, as does No. 7 Virginia. Meanwhile, Colorado lies in the U.S. West region and Minnesota the U.S. Midwest region.

It’s perhaps no coincidence that many of these states also possess some of the best colleges in the US. Massachusetts is home to colleges like Harvard, MIT, Tufts, and Williams College, all frequently ranked among the top schools academically. But possessing high-quality, highly selective colleges is not a prerequisite for ranking among the most educated states. Instead, the high level of educational attainment reflects the population’s means, capability (especially financial), and willingness to pursue higher levels of education.

We can break the most educated states down into more detailed categories. For instance, which states have the highest percentage of their population — ages 18 to 24 — have a bachelor’s degree or higher? Below you’ll find a table that details exactly that, ranked in order from the highest percentage to lowest:

States

Population 18 to 24 years: Bachelor's degree or higher

Massachusetts

19.1%

New Jersey

17.8%

New York

17.6%

Connecticut

16.9%

Maryland

14.6%

Minnesota

14.6%

Illinois

14.4%

New Hampshire

14.1%

North Dakota

14.1%

Virginia

13.8%

Once again, Massachusetts leads this top-10 list as it did in the overall study of the most educated states. New Jersey, again, comes in second. Here, however, New York supplants Connecticut by taking the third spot and Connecticut taking the fourth spot. Meanwhile, Illinois and North Dakota, which didn’t make the top 10 list of the most educated states overall, rank in the above list. In both Illinois and North Dakota, more than 14% of their populations aged 18 to 24 years-old have a bachelor’s degree or higher.

For the population aged 25 years and older with a bachelor's degree or higher, the top 10 states are little different than the top 10 list of the most educated states in the study overall. The main difference lays in the ranking of the states. Here’s a table below that shows the top 10 states with the highest percentage of 25-year-olds and older who have a bachelor’s degree or higher:

States

Population 25 years and over: Bachelor's degree or higher

Massachusetts

44.5%

Colorado

41.6%

Maryland

40.9%

New Jersey

40.7%

Connecticut

40.0%

Vermont

39.7%

Virginia

39.5%

New Hampshire

37.6%

New York

37.5%

Minnesota

36.8%

Yet again, Massachusetts tops the list, with only a little under half of its population 25 and older having a bachelor's degree or higher. However, Colorado takes the No. 2 spot, breaking up the Northeast’s domination of the top five most educated states in this case. More than two-fifths of Colorado’s population aged 25 and older has a bachelor's degree or higher. Colorado is also home to one of the hardest colleges to get into in the country.

The Least Educated States in the US of 2022

The least educated states all feature less than 10% of their populations aged 18 to 24 years-old having a bachelor’s degree or higher. In Alaska, for instance, only 6.1% of 18-to-24-year-olds have a bachelor’s degree or higher. Meanwhile, among the population that’s 25 years or older, West Virginia has the lowest rate of bachelor’s degrees or higher, at 21.3%.

States

Population 18 to 24 years: Bachelor's degree or higher

Population 25 years and over: Bachelor's degree

Population 25 years and over: Graduate or professional degree

Population 25 years and over: Bachelor's degree or higher

Mississippi

6.9%

13.8%

8.9%

22.8%

Nevada

6.3%

16.6%

8.8%

25.5%

West Virginia

8.9%

12.7%

8.6%

21.3%

Arkansas

8.7%

15.2%

8.6%

23.8%

Louisiana

8.4%

15.9%

8.9%

24.9%

Oklahoma

7.8%

17.2%

9.0%

26.1%

New Mexico

6.8%

15.8%

12.3%

28.1%

Alabama

8.0%

16.3%

9.9%

26.2%

Alaska

6.1%

18.7%

11.3%

30.0%

Kentucky

9.5%

14.8%

10.3%

25.0%

Many of these states suffer from low levels of income, making attending college a severe financial burden, unless financial aid or scholarships are utilized. New Mexico, interestingly, has a solid 12.3% of its population that’s 25 years or older who have a graduate or professional degree. This, unfortunately, is offset by only 6.8% of 18-to-24-year-olds having a bachelor’s degree or higher.

Females Overwhelmingly Have Higher Rates of Degrees Than Males

A key part of the overall scoring for this study of the most educated states is the percentage of male and female members of the population who have attained a bachelor’s degree or higher. Across nearly every state, females have higher rates of attaining a bachelor’s degree or higher. Not only that, but females also aged 18 to 24 years-old have higher rates of having a bachelor’s degree or higher compared to males in all 50 states. When it comes to the population aged 25 and older who have bachelor’s degrees or higher, in only two states — Idaho and Utah — did a higher percentage of males have a bachelor’s degree or higher than females.

Below is a table, with states in alphabetical order, that details the rates of bachelor's degrees or higher than females have versus their male counterparts:

States

Population 18 to 24 years: Bachelor's degree or higher - Female

Population 18 to 24 years: Bachelor's degree or higher - Male

Population 25 years and over: Bachelor's degree or higher - Female

Population 25 years and over: Bachelor's degree or higher - Male

Alabama

9.5%

6.4%

27.0%

25.4%

Alaska

7.8%

4.8%

33.9%

26.4%

Arizona

10.8%

7.6%

30.4%

30.2%

Arkansas

10.4%

7.1%

24.9%

22.6%

California

13.5%

9.5%

35.0%

34.4%

Colorado

16.1%

10.5%

42.4%

40.8%

Connecticut

19.7%

14.3%

40.7%

39.2%

Delaware

10.6%

8.8%

33.5%

31.7%

Florida

12.3%

8.3%

30.6%

30.5%

Georgia

11.9%

8.2%

33.2%

31.0%

Hawaii

12.1%

6.4%

35.1%

32.0%

Idaho

9.5%

6.2%

28.6%

28.7%

Illinois

16.7%

12.2%

36.3%

34.7%

Indiana

12.4%

9.0%

27.8%

26.4%

Iowa

13.5%

10.1%

30.6%

28.0%

Kansas

13.7%

9.1%

34.9%

33.0%

Kentucky

11.3%

7.7%

26.1%

23.9%

Louisiana

9.6%

7.3%

27.0%

22.5%

Maine

15.0%

9.9%

35.1%

29.6%

Maryland

17.5%

11.9%

41.7%

40.0%

Massachusetts

21.5%

16.5%

45.2%

43.8%

Michigan

13.0%

9.8%

30.4%

29.6%

Minnesota

17.7%

11.6%

38.1%

35.4%

Mississippi

8.5%

5.5%

24.9%

20.3%

Missouri

13.3%

8.8%

30.9%

28.9%

Montana

12.7%

7.9%

34.2%

32.1%

Nebraska

14.7%

10.5%

34.0%

30.9%

Nevada

7.8%

4.9%

25.8%

25.1%

New Hampshire

15.4%

12.9%

38.6%

36.5%

New Jersey

20.7%

15.0%

41.0%

40.5%

New Mexico

8.6%

5.1%

29.4%

26.8%

New York

20.4%

15.0%

38.5%

36.3%

North Carolina

13.3%

8.1%

33.1%

30.8%

North Dakota

18.4%

10.4%

33.8%

27.7%

Ohio

12.6%

8.6%

29.5%

28.2%

Oklahoma

9.3%

6.4%

27.1%

25.1%

Oregon

12.5%

8.4%

35.1%

33.7%

Pennsylvania

15.4%

11.5%

32.8%

31.8%

Rhode Island

14.4%

11.5%

35.5%

34.5%

South Carolina

12.0%

7.6%

29.8%

28.1%

South Dakota

16.0%

7.8%

31.2%

27.4%

Tennessee

12.9%

8.5%

29.0%

27.3%

Texas

11.7%

7.8%

31.2%

30.1%

Utah

9.6%

4.5%

32.7%

36.7%

Vermont

14.3%

10.3%

42.9%

36.2%

Virginia

16.7%

11.2%

39.9%

39.1%

Washington

14.5%

10.2%

36.9%

36.4%

West Virginia

11.4%

6.7%

22.5%

20.0%

Wisconsin

14.7%

9.6%

32.5%

29.0%

Wyoming

10.2%

6.1%

29.4%

27.0%

In terms of the population aged 18 to 24 years-old, South Dakota has the biggest difference (8.2%) between females who have earned a bachelor's degree or higher (16%) versus males (7.8%). Among the population that’s 25 years and older, Alaska has the biggest difference (7.5%) between females who have earned a bachelor's degree or higher (33.9%) versus males (26.4%).

On the national level too, females tend to have bachelor's degrees or higher compared to males. In terms of the US overall, for the population that’s 18 to 24 years-old, 14% of females have a bachelor’s degree or higher compared to 9.7% of males. And for the population that’s 25 years or older, 33.6% of females have a bachelor’s degree or higher versus 32.2% for males.

The Most Educated States and Least Educated States: Full Table

Below you’ll find the full table of all the factors that went into our study of the most educated states and least educated states in the US. The table is in order from the most educated states down to the least educated states:

States

Population 18 to 24 years: Bachelor's degree or higher

Population 25 years and over: Bachelor's degree

Population 25 years and over: Graduate or professional degree

Population 25 years and over: Bachelor's degree or higher

Population 18 to 24 years: Bachelor's degree or higher - Male

Population 25 years and over: Bachelor's degree - Male

Population 25 years and over: Graduate or professional degree - Male

Population 25 years and over: Bachelor's degree or higher - Male

Population 18 to 24 years: Bachelor's degree or higher - Female

Population 25 years and over: Bachelor's degree - Female

Population 25 years and over: Graduate or professional degree - Female

Population 25 years and over: Bachelor's degree or higher - Female

Massachusetts

19.1%

24.5%

20.0%

44.5%

16.5%

24.4%

19.4%

43.8%

21.5%

24.6%

20.6%

45.2%

New Jersey

17.8%

24.8%

15.9%

40.7%

15.0%

24.3%

16.2%

40.5%

20.7%

25.2%

15.7%

41.0%

Connecticut

16.9%

22.2%

17.9%

40.0%

14.3%

22.0%

17.3%

39.2%

19.7%

22.3%

18.4%

40.7%

New York

17.6%

20.9%

16.5%

37.5%

15.0%

21.0%

15.3%

36.3%

20.4%

20.8%

17.7%

38.5%

Maryland

14.6%

21.8%

19.1%

40.9%

11.9%

21.5%

18.5%

40.0%

17.5%

22.1%

19.6%

41.7%

Colorado

13.2%

26.0%

15.6%

41.6%

10.5%

25.5%

15.2%

40.8%

16.1%

26.6%

15.9%

42.4%

Virginia

13.8%

22.4%

17.2%

39.5%

11.2%

21.6%

17.4%

39.1%

16.7%

23.1%

16.9%

39.9%

New Hampshire

14.1%

23.0%

14.5%

37.6%

12.9%

22.8%

13.8%

36.5%

15.4%

23.3%

15.2%

38.6%

Minnesota

14.6%

24.2%

12.6%

36.8%

11.6%

23.3%

12.1%

35.4%

17.7%

25.0%

13.1%

38.1%

Vermont

12.2%

23.5%

16.1%

39.7%

10.3%

22.0%

14.2%

36.2%

14.3%

25.0%

18.0%

42.9%

Illinois

14.4%

21.6%

13.9%

35.5%

12.2%

21.4%

13.3%

34.7%

16.7%

21.8%

14.5%

36.3%

Washington

12.3%

22.8%

13.9%

36.7%

10.2%

22.5%

13.9%

36.4%

14.5%

23.0%

13.9%

36.9%

Rhode Island

13.0%

21.0%

14.0%

35.0%

11.5%

20.8%

13.6%

34.5%

14.4%

21.2%

14.3%

35.5%

Pennsylvania

13.4%

19.5%

12.8%

32.3%

11.5%

19.6%

12.3%

31.8%

15.4%

19.4%

13.3%

32.8%

North Dakota

14.1%

22.1%

8.6%

30.7%

10.4%

20.0%

7.7%

27.7%

18.4%

24.3%

9.5%

33.8%

California

11.5%

21.6%

13.1%

34.7%

9.5%

21.2%

13.2%

34.4%

13.5%

22.1%

13.0%

35.0%

Nebraska

12.5%

21.4%

11.1%

32.5%

10.5%

20.2%

10.7%

30.9%

14.7%

22.5%

11.5%

34.0%

Maine

12.4%

20.3%

12.2%

32.5%

9.9%

18.7%

10.9%

29.6%

15.0%

21.8%

13.3%

35.1%

Kansas

11.3%

21.5%

12.5%

33.9%

9.1%

20.8%

12.1%

33.0%

13.7%

22.1%

12.8%

34.9%

Oregon

10.4%

21.3%

13.1%

34.4%

8.4%

20.8%

12.8%

33.7%

12.5%

21.8%

13.4%

35.1%

Wisconsin

12.1%

20.3%

10.5%

30.8%

9.6%

19.1%

10.0%

29.0%

14.7%

21.4%

11.1%

32.5%

Montana

10.2%

22.2%

10.9%

33.1%

7.9%

21.4%

10.7%

32.1%

12.7%

23.0%

11.1%

34.2%

North Carolina

10.7%

20.4%

11.6%

32.0%

8.1%

19.7%

11.2%

30.8%

13.3%

21.1%

12.0%

33.1%

Michigan

11.4%

18.3%

11.7%

30.0%

9.8%

17.9%

11.6%

29.6%

13.0%

18.6%

11.8%

30.4%

Iowa

11.7%

19.7%

9.6%

29.3%

10.1%

18.7%

9.3%

28.0%

13.5%

20.7%

9.9%

30.6%

South Dakota

11.7%

20.1%

9.2%

29.3%

7.8%

18.8%

8.6%

27.4%

16.0%

21.3%

9.8%

31.2%

Georgia

10.0%

19.7%

12.5%

32.2%

8.2%

19.4%

11.6%

31.0%

11.9%

19.9%

13.3%

33.2%

Delaware

9.7%

19.0%

13.7%

32.7%

8.8%

18.5%

13.1%

31.7%

10.6%

19.4%

14.1%

33.5%

Hawaii

9.0%

21.9%

11.6%

33.6%

6.4%

20.8%

11.2%

32.0%

12.1%

23.0%

12.0%

35.1%

Missouri

11.0%

18.4%

11.5%

29.9%

8.8%

18.1%

10.8%

28.9%

13.3%

18.7%

12.1%

30.9%

Florida

10.3%

19.3%

11.3%

30.6%

8.3%

18.9%

11.5%

30.5%

12.3%

19.6%

11.1%

30.6%

Texas

9.7%

19.9%

10.8%

30.7%

7.8%

19.3%

10.8%

30.1%

11.7%

20.5%

10.8%

31.2%

Ohio

10.6%

17.9%

10.9%

28.9%

8.6%

17.7%

10.5%

28.2%

12.6%

18.1%

11.4%

29.5%

Tennessee

10.6%

17.8%

10.4%

28.2%

8.5%

17.5%

9.8%

27.3%

12.9%

18.1%

10.9%

29.0%

Utah

7.0%

23.0%

11.7%

34.7%

4.5%

22.6%

14.1%

36.7%

9.6%

23.4%

9.3%

32.7%

Arizona

9.1%

18.8%

11.5%

30.3%

7.6%

18.6%

11.7%

30.2%

10.8%

19.0%

11.4%

30.4%

South Carolina

9.7%

18.2%

10.8%

29.0%

7.6%

18.2%

10.0%

28.1%

12.0%

18.2%

11.6%

29.8%

Indiana

10.6%

17.3%

9.9%

27.2%

9.0%

16.9%

9.5%

26.4%

12.4%

17.6%

10.2%

27.8%

Wyoming

8.1%

17.7%

10.5%

28.2%

6.1%

16.5%

10.6%

27.0%

10.2%

18.9%

10.5%

29.4%

Idaho

7.8%

19.3%

9.4%

28.7%

6.2%

18.3%

10.5%

28.7%

9.5%

20.3%

8.3%

28.6%

Kentucky

9.5%

14.8%

10.3%

25.0%

7.7%

14.8%

9.0%

23.9%

11.3%

14.7%

11.4%

26.1%

Alaska

6.1%

18.7%

11.3%

30.0%

4.8%

16.4%

10.0%

26.4%

7.8%

21.1%

12.7%

33.9%

Alabama

8.0%

16.3%

9.9%

26.2%

6.4%

16.0%

9.4%

25.4%

9.5%

16.6%

10.3%

27.0%

New Mexico

6.8%

15.8%

12.3%

28.1%

5.1%

15.0%

11.8%

26.8%

8.6%

16.6%

12.8%

29.4%

Oklahoma

7.8%

17.2%

9.0%

26.1%

6.4%

16.4%

8.7%

25.1%

9.3%

17.9%

9.2%

27.1%

Louisiana

8.4%

15.9%

8.9%

24.9%

7.3%

14.6%

7.9%

22.5%

9.6%

17.1%

9.9%

27.0%

Arkansas

8.7%

15.2%

8.6%

23.8%

7.1%

14.6%

8.0%

22.6%

10.4%

15.8%

9.1%

24.9%

West Virginia

8.9%

12.7%

8.6%

21.3%

6.7%

12.3%

7.7%

20.0%

11.4%

13.2%

9.4%

22.5%

Nevada

6.3%

16.6%

8.8%

25.5%

4.9%

16.3%

8.8%

25.1%

7.8%

17.0%

8.8%

25.8%

Mississippi

6.9%

13.8%

8.9%

22.8%

5.5%

12.7%

7.6%

20.3%

8.5%

14.9%

10.0%

24.9%

The Bottom Line on the Most Educated States and the Least Educated

Available financial resources is definitely an important factor when it comes to educational attainment. It’s no coincidence that the top of the list of the most educated states also have high household incomes compared to the US overall. College has become incredibly expensive over the years, making student loans and financial aid more central than ever to paying for the cost of higher education. Another key way of lightening the financial burden of attending college is to apply for college scholarships, of which there are literally thousands available across the country and to all types of people. BrokeScholar itself has a massive library of scholarships for college, whether you’re looking for an undergraduate degree or a graduate degree. As college costs continue to rise year after year, it is likely that applications for college scholarships will accelerate.