Top education officials reported Wednesday Connecticut is on a path to fall well short of graduating enough students from colleges to meet businesses needs.

“We are starting to sink,” Education Commissioner Michael Meotti said Thursday, reacting to census figures that show Connecticut ranks 34th in the nation at increasing the number of people with a degree.

Business and education leaders at a summit last week in Manchester also acknowledged Connecticut is not keeping up with businesses needs.

“We have jobs in the state available but we don’t have the requisite people to fill these positions,” Sen. Gary D. LeBeau, D-East Hartford and co-chairman of the legislature’s Commerce Committee, told the audience at Manchester Community College.

Connecticut in 1990 earned the bragging rights of having a higher percentage of its workforce than any other state with a degree, but since then states have one by one passed Connecticut. The most recent figures have Connecticut ranked 7th, with 45.7 percent of the workforce having a college degree. A recent study released by Georgetown University says that 68 percent of the jobs in Connecticut will require a college education by 2018.

Officials are not confident they will meet that demand if they continue with the same tactics.

“Almost every state is getting more people to graduate than we are,” Malia Sieve, association director at the SDHE, told the Higher Education Board of Governors Wednesday.

Meotti said during an interview the problem is not getting more students to enroll in college, it’s getting them to stay past their first couple of classes and actually graduate. Enrollment at the state’s universities is at an all-time-high — reaching 200,600 students at public and private institutions at the start of the school year.

“We have so many people that don’t graduate,” Meotti said, noting that students that attend community colleges have a greater chance of dropping out than graduating.

“We have to change this troubling trend,” he said.

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Jacqueline Rabe Thomas

Jacqueline was CT Mirror’s Education and Housing Reporter, and an original member of the CT Mirror staff, joining shortly before our January 2010 launch. Her awards include the best-of-show Theodore A. Driscoll Investigative Award from the Connecticut Society of Professional Journalists in 2019 for reporting on inadequate inmate health care, first-place for investigative reporting from the New England Newspaper and Press Association in 2020 for reporting on housing segregation, and two first-place awards from the National Education Writers Association in 2012. She was selected for a prestigious, year-long Propublica Local Reporting Network grant in 2019, exploring a range of affordable and low-income housing issues. Before joining CT Mirror, Jacqueline was a reporter, online editor and website developer for The Washington Post Co.’s Maryland newspaper chains. Jacqueline received an undergraduate degree in journalism from Bowling Green State University and a master’s in public policy from Trinity College.

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