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Rise to 55 begins in Madison

Rick Patrick: Greene Publishing, Inc.

In order to improve the standard of living for its citizens, the State of Florida has begun an ambitious goal of increasing the number of citizens attaining some kind of post-secondary certification or degree. According to state officials, further education will be a crucial step in attaining that goal. It is estimated that by 2025, over 60 percent of jobs in Florida will require some kind of post-secondary education. The State of Florida has set a goal of having 55 percent of adults age 25-64 with some kind of post-secondary degree or certification by the year 2025. This program has been given the title, “Rise to 55 – Resourcing Industry for a Stronger Economy.”

On Friday, Oct. 20, approximately 30 business, educational and community leaders from throughout North Florida gathered at North Florida Community College to discuss and develop ideas for attaining this lofty goal. Ideas from this meeting ranged from increasing on-line opportunities for working adults to producing a series of radio and television public service announcements promoting the benefits of higher education. According to Madeline Pumariega, Chancellor of the Florida College System, Madison was chosen to begin this campaign because of the crucial role rural communities have toward achieving this goal.

Locally, according to the US Census Bureau, 2015 American Community Survey, in Madison County 25.4 percent of adults age 25-34 have a two-year degree or higher. When that age range is increased to 25-64, that percentage drops to 19.9 percent in Madison County. In neighboring Jefferson County, 14.5 percent of adults 25-34 have at least a two-year degree. That percentage increases to 27.4 percent when the age range is increased to 25-64 for Jefferson County residents. Statewide, Florida ranks 30th in the percentage of citizens age 25-64 with an associate’s degree or higher, with 38.7 percent. The US national average is 40 percent.

According to information provided by the Florida College Access Network (FCAN), the median annual income for Floridians with a high school education is $26,109. For those with a vocational certificate, that number increases to $35,473; over $4,000 above the state average income of $31,19. The median income for those with an associate (two-year) degree is $58,065. The median income for those with a bachelor’s degree is $63,993 and the median income for those with a master’s degree or higher is $96,314. “Individuals with higher levels of education earn more, are more likely to be employed, have a better quality of life and contribute more to their local and state economies.”

More information about the “Rise to 55” program can be found at www.floridahighereducation.org.

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