Educational Needs Index

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Educational Needs Index Model

The Educational Needs Index includes fifteen county-level variables that directly impact participation rates in postsecondary education, educational attainment levels, employment patterns, and socioeconomic status. Through standardization of the data, the model combines these various statewide educational, demographic, and economic characteristics and allows for comparison across all of the respective counties in a given region and the nation as a whole. Counties are designated “most critical” when relatively poor conditions of under-education and economic challenges are compounded by population growth and shifting demographics toward youth or at-risk minority groups.

The ENI model evaluates the educational needs and demands of the 3,140 diverse counties of the nation, allowing for a series of economic, educational, demographic, and social variables to be included in the analysis. The model employs the fifteen unique indicators by folding all into four factor categories:

  • Educational Factor – Indicators assess the educational capacity of a county’s adult population. Indicators measure the percent of the population with a high school degree, associate’s degree, and bachelor’s degree, and a measure of the educational attainment gap between younger and older members of the workforce.
  • Economic Factor - Indicators in this category assess the degree of economic challenges facing counties. Indicators measure the percent of population in poverty, unemployment rates, the existing earnings capacity of residents, and dependence upon manufacturing jobs.
  • Market Demand Factor – Indicators assess the present population growth issues facing the county and potential need for increased emphasis on human capital development to address changing demographics. Indicators measure recent and project population growth, population aged 19 and younger as a percent of the total population, population aged 20-44, and the relative size of a county’s at-risk minority population.
  • Population Factor – Indicators serve as corrective variables to control for the population size of each respective county.

ENI Factor Categories and Associated Indicators

Educational Factor (30% of ENI)
Percent 18-64 Year Olds with a High School Diploma (2000)
Percent 25-64 Year Olds with an Associates Degree (2000)
Percent 25-64 Year Olds with a Bachelor's Degree or Higher (2000)
Difference in College Attainment Between Young (25-35) and Older (45-64)
Economic Factor (30% of ENI)
Unemployment Rate (2003)
Percent of Population Under 65 In Poverty (2000)
Median Family Income (2000)
Per Capita Income (2000)
Percent Manufacturing Employment (2000)
Market Demand Factor (30% of ENI)
Projected Percent Change in 64 and Under Population 2000 to 2020
Percent of Population Ages 0 to 19 (2000)
Percent of Population Ages 20 to 44 (2000)
Rate of Population Growth 64 and Under (1990 to 2000)
Percent At-Risk Minority (%) (2000)
Population Adjustment Factor (10% of ENI)
Percent of State Population Ages 0 - 44 (2000)

The Educational Needs Index places an emphasis on the transition between K-12 policy concerns and postsecondary opportunities. The data assists policymakers at state, regional, and local levels as they work to reach informed decisions on issues of adult education and postsecondary education access and attainment. Particular emphasis is placed on the role that training, certificate programs, two-year degrees, and adult literacy initiatives play in forming foundations for more promising futures and stronger economies built upon a more versatile workforce. By identifying and offering intervention strategies for the most pressing issues facing critical regions, this research promotes a more informed and long-term debate about postsecondary access. The project focuses on the most disadvantaged rural and urban areas of the U.S. and promotes regional partnerships between education, business, and government.

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