SALT LAKE CITY (AP) -- Utah commonly ranks at or near the top of the nation in high school graduation rates, and somewhat above average in college graduation.
The most recent figures, released this week by the U.S. Census Bureau, rank Utah 17th in the nation in college graduation with about 27.3 percent of its population 25 years and older, having earned a bachelor's or higher academic degree. The national average was 25.9 percent.
"It's good to be above the national average," said Dave Buhler, Utah System of Higher Education associate commissioner of public affairs. "But we need to do better."
A study by the National Center for Public Policy and Higher Education released last month ranked Utah fourth in the nation in its high school graduation rate, but only 31st in college graduations.
That study was based on students graduating with an associate's degree within three years or a bachelor's within six. Some Utah students delay interrupt their college studies to go on missions for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and Utah officials have speculated that the state also may have more women who marry and leave school early and either don't graduate or return much later.
Unlike many other reports, the Census Bureau survey would include those who leave schools for missions or marriage but still eventually get their degree.
Higher Education Commissioner Rich Kendell said last month that despite Utah's cultural factors, schools need to focus more on retention to improve the state's college graduation rate.
(Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)