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 Illinois, Wilmette, a village of about 27,200 people, ranks as the best educated place. An estimated 83.2% of adults in the area have a bachelor’s degree or higher, compared to the 34.7% 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 Wilmette, the typical household earns $164,681 a year, above the statewide median household income of $65,886.
All data in this story are five-year estimates from the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2019 American Community Survey. We considered all census “place” geographies — a category that includes incorporated legal entities and census-designated statistical entities. Places with populations of 25,000 or less, or with high margins of error in education data, were excluded from analysis.
Most educated placeAdults with a bachelor’s degree (%)Adults with a bachelor’s degree; statewide (%)Median household income ($)Median household income; statewide ($)Alabama: Vestavia Hills69.325.5109,48550,536Alaska: Juneau38.429.688,39077,640Arizona: Catalina Foothills67.829.592,92958,945Arkansas: Bentonville50.223.080,39247,597California: Los Altos84.233.9235,27875,235Colorado: Boulder76.040.969,52072,331Connecticut: Westport78.039.3206,46678,444Delaware: Newark53.232.058,43468,287Florida: Coral Gables66.729.9100,84355,660Georgia: Dunwoody72.231.396,05758,700Hawaii: East Honolulu58.333.0133,16581,275Idaho: Moscow55.827.641,89655,785Illinois: Wilmette83.234.7164,68165,886Indiana: West Lafayette71.526.534,65056,303Iowa: Ames62.728.648,10560,523Kansas: Leawood76.933.4157,51559,597Kentucky: Lexington-Fayette43.624.257,29150,589Louisiana: Lafayette38.224.151,26449,469Maine: Portland52.631.860,46757,918Maryland: Bethesda85.940.2164,14284,805Massachusetts: Lexington84.743.7186,20181,215Michigan: Ann Arbor76.029.165,74557,144Minnesota: Edina69.836.1104,24471,306Mississippi: Madison68.522.0114,52145,081Missouri: Chesterfield69.229.2113,31555,461Montana: Bozeman58.732.055,56954,970Nebraska: Lincoln39.631.957,74661,439Nevada: Summerlin South48.824.793,89960,365New Hampshire: Dover46.537.071,63176,768New Jersey: Princeton81.039.7137,67282,545New Mexico: Santa Fe41.727.357,97249,754New York: Ithaca66.936.634,42468,486North Carolina: Chapel Hill76.931.373,61454,602North Dakota: West Fargo44.230.085,12064,894Ohio: Upper Arlington77.128.3123,54856,602Oklahoma: Edmond53.425.581,47352,919Oregon: Lake Oswego71.433.7108,92762,818Pennsylvania: State College70.631.434,00561,744Rhode Island: Warwick33.834.273,75767,167South Carolina: Mount Pleasant63.928.1103,23253,199South Dakota: Sioux Falls35.228.859,91258,275Tennessee: Brentwood76.127.3168,68853,320Texas: University Park87.829.9224,48561,874Utah: Holladay55.834.088,72871,621Vermont: Burlington53.338.051,39461,973Virginia: McLean83.538.8207,18474,222Washington: Mercer Island78.236.0147,56673,775West Virginia: Morgantown55.020.642,96646,711Wisconsin: Brookfield60.730.1108,19861,747Wyoming: Laramie52.727.446,11764,049