The average cost of a college education in the United States is $35,720 a year -- three times higher than it was two decades ago. While rising tuition costs are discouraging many Americans from enrolling, a college education is an investment that can broaden access to career opportunities, improve job security, and increase earning potential.
Nationwide, an estimated 32.1% of American adults 25 and older have a bachelor's degree or higher. Educational attainment rates vary considerably across the country, however, and in every state, there is at least one city where the share of adults with a bachelor's degree is higher than the national average.
In Massachusetts, Lexington, an unincorporated community of about 33,300 people, ranks as the best educated place. An estimated 84.7% of adults in the area have a bachelor's degree or higher, compared to the 43.7% bachelor's degree attainment rate across the state as a whole.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average weekly wage for a college-educated worker in the United States is about 67% higher than it is for those with no more than a high school diploma -- and in cities with well-educated populations, incomes also tend to be higher than average. In Lexington, the typical household earns $186,201 a year, above the statewide median household income of $81,215.
All data in this story are five-year estimates from the U.S. Census Bureau's 2019 American Community Survey. We considered all census "place" geographies -- a category that includes incorporated legal entities and census-designated statistical entities. Places with populations of 25,000 or less, or with high margins of error in education data, were excluded from analysis.
|Most educated place||Adults with a bachelor's degree (%)||Adults with a bachelor's degree; statewide (%)||Median household income ($)||Median household income; statewide ($)|
|Alabama: Vestavia Hills||69.3||25.5||109,485||50,536|
|Arizona: Catalina Foothills||67.8||29.5||92,929||58,945|
|California: Los Altos||84.2||33.9||235,278||75,235|
|Florida: Coral Gables||66.7||29.9||100,843||55,660|
|Hawaii: East Honolulu||58.3||33.0||133,165||81,275|
|Indiana: West Lafayette||71.5||26.5||34,650||56,303|
|Michigan: Ann Arbor||76.0||29.1||65,745||57,144|
|Nevada: Summerlin South||48.8||24.7||93,899||60,365|
|New Hampshire: Dover||46.5||37.0||71,631||76,768|
|New Jersey: Princeton||81.0||39.7||137,672||82,545|
|New Mexico: Santa Fe||41.7||27.3||57,972||49,754|
|New York: Ithaca||66.9||36.6||34,424||68,486|
|North Carolina: Chapel Hill||76.9||31.3||73,614||54,602|
|North Dakota: West Fargo||44.2||30.0||85,120||64,894|
|Ohio: Upper Arlington||77.1||28.3||123,548||56,602|
|Oregon: Lake Oswego||71.4||33.7||108,927||62,818|
|Pennsylvania: State College||70.6||31.4||34,005||61,744|
|Rhode Island: Warwick||33.8||34.2||73,757||67,167|
|South Carolina: Mount Pleasant||63.9||28.1||103,232||53,199|
|South Dakota: Sioux Falls||35.2||28.8||59,912||58,275|
|Texas: University Park||87.8||29.9||224,485||61,874|
|Washington: Mercer Island||78.2||36.0||147,566||73,775|
|West Virginia: Morgantown||55.0||20.6||42,966||46,711|