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 Louisiana, Lafayette, a city of about 126,700 people, ranks as the best educated place. An estimated 38.2% of adults in the area have a bachelor’s degree or higher, compared to the 24.1% 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 Lafayette, the typical household earns $51,264 a year, above the statewide median household income of $49,469.
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.