Detroit Regional Chamber > Chamber > State of Education and Talent Report: Education Gains Continue While Challenging Trends Jeopardize Future Workforce

State of Education and Talent Report: Education Gains Continue While Challenging Trends Jeopardize Future Workforce

December 6, 2023

Today, the Detroit Regional Chamber released its 2023 State of Education and Talent report during its annual State of Education and Talent event, offering a candid assessment of educational attainment in the Detroit Region. The virtual event featured Henry Ford College President Russ A. Kavalhuna and University of Michigan President Santa J. Ono.

The report provides data and trends related to postsecondary educational outcomes, which are critical to creating a competitive highly skilled workforce and more prosperous economy.

“The Detroit Region is gradually increasing educational attainment, but there are significant challenges that, if not addressed, will jeopardize our ability to field a workforce that’s prepared for the jobs of the future,” said Chamber President and Chief Executive Officer Sandy K. Baruah. “Our report is good news, bad news. There are promising gains like increased bachelor’s degree attainment, yet an alarming downward trend in overall enrollment. The bottom line is that we still have too many people not earning a degree or credential after high school.”

Some key statistics or trends highlighted in the report include:


Bachelor’s degree attainment is up across the Region.

  • The share of students who enroll and obtain a bachelor’s degree or higher within six years of high school graduation is increasing, with rates in the city (25%) and Region (50%) increasing seven percentage points over the past five years.

Postsecondary graduation rates show small increase over past five years.

  • Graduation rates at four-year institutions for regional students (71%) and city of Detroit students (42%) have increased incrementally over the past five years.
  • Graduation rates at two-year institutions have also shown minimal increases with regional students at 32% and city of Detroit students at 12%.

Black, Latino Detroit Promise students outpace national average by wide margin.

  • The 62% graduation rate for Black Detroit Promise students who enrolled at a four-year institution in 2016 and 2017 is 13 percentage points higher than the national average for Black students.
  • For Latino Detroit Promise students, the gap is seven percentage points.

Apprenticeships have nearly doubled in past five years.

  • The Detroit Region has over 7,600 active apprentices as of 2022, with completions nearly doubling since 2018.
  • The majority of active apprentices are in the construction and manufacturing industries, however, retail trade, utilities, and health care also are leading industries with apprenticeship opportunities.

Detroit high school graduation rates near pre-pandemic levels.

  • Reversing a multi-year decline, the city of Detroit high school graduation rate increased from 68% to 73% in 2022, while still trailing the rest of the Region (85%) and national average (87%).


Postsecondary enrollment continues to decline.

  • Postsecondary enrollment continues to drop as 37% of regional students and 59% of city of Detroit students have not enrolled within 12 months of high school graduation.

Nearly half of enrolled students have not earned a credential after six years.

  • Of students who enroll in postsecondary education, 42% of the Region’s students and 70% of city of Detroit students have not earned a degree or certificate within six years of high school graduation.

Major educational disparities based on race persist.

  • In 2022, 27% of Black or African American adults, 25 years or older, and 34% of Hispanic or Latino adults had an associate degree or higher — well below the Detroit Region’s rate of 44%.
  • In 2022, educational institutions in the Detroit Region conferred more than 45,000 certificates and degrees. However, Black or African American students accounted for just 12% of degree completions despite representing 20% of the Region’s adult population.

Fewer working-age adults with some college credit are earning degrees.

  • The Detroit Region has 492,000 working-age adults with some college, no degree — which at 22%, is the highest share among peer regions.
  • Adults, 25 years and older, earning an associate degree or higher from postsecondary institutions in the Detroit Region have decreased 6% year over year and 15% over the past five years.

Half of regional students complete FAFSA, Michiganders left over $90 million in federal aid unclaimed.

  • During the 2022-23 academic year, only 54% of Metro Detroit students completed the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA).
  • Statewide, Michigan students in the 2022 graduating high school class left $93.5 million in Pell grants unclaimed.
  • High school students who complete the FAFSA are 84% more likely to enroll in postsecondary education immediately after high school. For the lowest income households that likelihood increases to 127%.

Misperceptions and low awareness threaten to exacerbate talent challenges.

  • Only 27.5% of voters said a four-year degree was worth the money, according to recent Chamber polling.
  • Only 26.5% of voters say a college education is very important to landing a successful job in Michigan.
  • Only 23% of Michigan voters have heard of the Michigan Achievement Scholarship, and only 15% of Michigan Reconnect.

Other Key Takeaways

Closing racial equity gap, adult education critical to reaching attainment goals.
The Detroit Regional Chamber established the goal of achieving 60% of the Region’s adult population with a postsecondary degree or credential and cutting the racial equity gap by 2030, a goal that Gov. Whitmer has adopted for all of Michigan. As of 2022, the Detroit Region is at 53%, marking a nearly three-percentage-point-improvement since 2018.

“We must close the racial equity gap and ensure more working-age adults are returning to college to finish their degree to reach our educational attainment goals,” said Greg Handel, the Chamber’s Vice President of Education and Talent. “Doing so takes time and a long-term commitment by the entire Detroit Region to continue to develop and scale programs that improve access and affordability while supporting students throughout their educational journey.”

Achieving 60% by 2030 goal would deliver $42 billion ROI, increase prosperity.
Meeting the 60% attainment goal also has the potential to generate an additional $42 billion of income in the Region. Every one percentage point increase in bachelor’s degree attainment increases per capita income by $1,500.

According to the report, unemployment rates are four times higher for high school graduates than those with a bachelor’s degree. By 2027, 70% of jobs will require education or training behind high school. Also, 85% of jobs that require a bachelor’s degree or higher can support a family of three compared to only about a quarter of jobs that require only a high school diploma or some college.

“The trends are very clear,” said Baruah. “The jobs of the future will require education and training beyond high school. Postsecondary education also leads to lower unemployment and higher wages. For our Region to prosper, we need more people earning more credentials and degrees.”

The State of Education and Talent report was created with support from The Kresge Foundation, which funded the research by the University of Michigan’s Youth Policy Lab.