Buncombe has more college-educated than national average

According to statistics compiled from census data by the Chronicle of Higher Education, Buncombe County has more college-educated people than the national average, with 30.65 percent of the population having a bachelor’s degree or higher. The national average is 27.5 percent.

The numbers show that the most college-educated population within Buncombe are women (31.07 percent as compared to 30.16 percent of men). Also, 41.82 percent of Asian residents have a college degree, compared to 32.18 percent of whites, 12.10 percent for blacks and 11.69 percent for Hispanics.

While Buncombe’s level of college education exceeds the national average, other counties in the metro area are below it. Henderson County has 24.13 percent of the population college-educated, Madison County 16.11 percent and Haywood County 15.98 percent.

With data stretching back to 1940, the Chronicle‘s map shows that college education in Buncombe was below the national average until about 2000, and has risen since (from 25.26 percent to its current level).

— David Forbes, senior news reporter


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42 thoughts on “Buncombe has more college-educated than national average

  1. Grant Millin

    The big question is after a decade of 25-30% of our people having developed our brains beyond high school, why do we have such abysmal career options here?

    Start answering the question by eliminating the Great Recession. What are our assets and capabilities around here, beyond tons of higher education degrees? Why aren’t our assets being directed towards innovations with big mutual aid payoffs? What (or who) is preventing the change most of us want?

    For example, what has the Asheville Hub Project accomplished? What will Aloft and the retail shops at 51 Biltmore pay entry-level workers? Benefits? I hope MX will do some stories on the make-up of our local and regional economic development team members and how effective their mental frames are.

  2. travelah

    With data stretching back to 1940, the Chronicle‘s map shows that college education in Buncombe was below the national average until about 2000, and has risen since (from 25.26 percent to its current level).

    That is probably an indication of the influx of people from other places looking for their Nirvana. Now, if these quests could just transform into something tangible and beneficial for everybody else in the county, there might be something to brag about. Until then, college educated waitresses and baristas are not exactly fueling upward mobility.

  3. Curious

    Are the figures for college education broken down by age groups, as well as gender and ethnicity?

  4. sharpleycladd

    We should all be proud of our well-educated bellhops and baristas. It would be a shame to build, say, a municipal solar-electric consortium with a workforce better suited to city-subsidized hotels and parking garages.

  5. Betty Cloer Wallace

    @ Travelah: “That is probably an indication of the influx of people from other places looking for their Nirvana.”

    @Sharpleycladd: “We should all be proud of our well-educated bellhops and baristas.”

    Why do the two of you assume the “well-educated bellhops and baristas” (sharpleycladd) and “people from other places looking for their Nirvana” (travelah) make up those numbers of well-educated AVL residents?

    Please cite your sources, if any, for your speculations.

    Don’t ye think that perhaps a goodly number of us natives, too, somewhere along the way, decided that education would be a good thing, and contributed to those numbers?

  6. travelah

    Well, Betty, call it good intuition, especially when we see drastically different numbers all around Asheville proper. You could always take a poll here on MX but it is already well known that Asheville is populated with a large influx of people who are not from this area.

  7. Betty Cloer Wallace

    @ mat catastrophe (cough, cough) referring to another recent David Forbes article re metro Asheville’s (not Buncombe County’s) recent national visibility in a darker light: “The report ranks the Asheville metro area the sixth worst in the nation, with the average resident carrying 16.12 percent of their annual income in debt.”

    So, some disaggregated numbers would be appreciated by many readers, I’m sure, and would clarify both these stories–and perhaps save a lot of needless and erroneous speculation about both metro Asheville and the entirety of Buncombe County, as well as to whom exactly both articles refer.

  8. travelah

    Liberal Arts and “design your own needless and useless studies programs” more than likely.

  9. sharpleycladd

    I’m sure a lot of people who grew up here have bachelors and advanced degrees. My point was a very educated workforce and not a lot of good jobs. No offense intended.

    I was also being unsportsmanlike about the 51 Biltmore project, wondering what 14.2 Mill in city money could do in the way of incubating employment for a workforce that’s obviously better-than-bellhop material. Instead of building parking lots, I mean.

  10. BigAl

    How is this article such a big surprise? Buncombe County (Asheville in particular) is the only city of any significant size in a 14-county region, drawing most of the college-educated of WNC, including most of the healthcare professionals at Mission, while sparsely-populated WNC provides fewer non-college citizens to dilute the mix as in other college towns and urban centers. Statistically you will get the same result if you stick any city, especially one with its’ own college, in a huge rural area.

    The problem is, college degrees do not neccessarily make for better economic conditions when the degrees are in English Lit, Political Science and Art. This small town already has too many poets, potters and hipster activists.

  11. BigAl

    “Why do the two of you assume the “well-educated bellhops and baristas” (sharpleycladd) and “people from other places looking for their Nirvana” (travelah) make up those numbers of well-educated AVL residents?”

    While I have no documentable evidence, my ANECDOTAL evidence of observation is that both commentators are correct. Reference Mr. Brown’s excellent cartoon “Sirens of Asheville”.

    The “keep Asheville Weird” amd “Beer City USA” campaigns promote Asheville/Buncombe as a welcoming commune of sex, drugs and rock-and-roll and imply that all will be provided for those who journey into the promised land. Upon arrival, the pilgrims learn that dinner is dutch and you BYOB.

    Don’t get me wrong, I love the area, but I came here with the neccessary jobs skills to get and keep a well-paying job. I had NO illusions about the false realities portrayed by the bumper stickers and magazine ads. I also have no patience or sympathy for those who come here to party, then end up waiting tables while muttering about how someone else is the reason they can’t earn enough.

  12. reasonable

    Two things come to mind…

    1. When everyone has a baccalaureate or greater degree, then it becomes the norm.

    2. When we have a area that churns out those degrees and not a helluvalot to employ them, we’re stuck with those “stastickstics.”

    I don’t see any news here.

  13. Given the stats above / coupled with the recent report about Asheville being abominably low in the jobs department….the recent revelations of high debt, toss in significant $$$ spent for overpriced parking garages & the low paying service jobs associated with 51 Biltmore……all point to abysmal leadership.

    The Chamber, Advantage West, and others trusted with the task of developing good jobs have failed us.

  14. dpewen

    Yup, keep Asheville wierd I say … and I do like to party … and drink the great local beer … and attend all the great music events!
    Fortunately I came here with plenty of money and did not have to work!
    … and the weed is very good also!!

  15. Most transplants who thrive, bring their jobs with them. Or they come as retirees.

    I’ve not tried the weed….but lots of service folks seem to be enjoying it.

  16. BigAl

    “The Chamber, Advantage West, and others trusted with the task of developing good jobs have failed us.”

    I am curious to know what any of these organizations could do (or could have done) to attract more jobs here, especially higher-paying jobs. This is a very small town with few incentives to offer.

  17. I’d like to know this too…I do know this is what they purport to be doing for the community. Advantage West’s mission sounds real good, but Asheville is #4 in the country for lack of jobs.

    “AdvantageWest is ready to help.

    AdvantageWest is the regional economic development partnership serving the 23 western counties of North Carolina. Since our start in 1994, we have strategically adapted and diversified our program of work to meet the unique and changing needs of the region, earning a reputation as one of the most progressive economic development commissions in the nation.

    AdvantageWest’s programs and strategic partners include: Blue Ridge Advanced Manufacturing Initiative * Blue Ridge Food Ventures * Blue Ridge Entrepreneurial Council * Certified Entrepreneurial Community Program * WNC Film Commission * AdvantageGreen * MountainSouth USA * North Carolina Department of Commerce * Blue Ridge National Heritage Area * Blue Ridge Angel Investor Network * Biz Boost”

    And the Chamber’s Economic mission says

    “Succeed Where life’s a Pleasure

    Welcome to the Economic Development Coalition for Asheville-Buncombe County (EDC).

    The EDC is your singular source for comprehensive economic development services, working as a clearinghouse of resources, relationships, and expertise to help companies connect and grow in our city’s vibrant economy. Our mission is to attract, create, and expand business opportunities…in short, to help business succeed in Asheville.

    Asheville’s metropolitan area has a population of 400,000 and a $13.2 billion economy, with a diverse yet balanced mix of knowledge-based enterprises, advanced manufacturing, professional services, and growth industry companies.

    The Economic Development Coalition is brought to you by a consortium of public and private entities, including Buncombe County, the City of Asheville, the Asheville Area Chamber of Commerce, and the Advantage Asheville campaigns.

    Asheville is in a great position to do business, sitting at the crossroads of two major interstates- I-40, which links the East and West Coasts of the United States, and I-26, which connects Charleston, S.C., to the Ohio River Valley. One half of the Nation’s population is within a day’s drive.”

  18. sharpleycladd

    Dana Manufacturing didn’t locate here about 10 years ago. Look into it, and examine the fingerprints.

  19. bill smith

    [i]Liberal Arts and “design your own needless and useless studies programs” more than likely. [/i]

    Have to agree with the traveler on this one. Why else would Asheville have such a disproportionate amount college grads in comparison to surrounding regions (and starting EXACTLY when the influx of out of town liberal arts types truly took off; 2000AD)?

    And mat’s point is pretty obvious, too. Most college grads have a lot of debt they are dealing with. How many tens of thousands a year is Warren Wilson these days?

  20. Betty Cloer Wallace

    I think the underlying reasons for these college graduate percentages by county are far more complex than heretofore speculated.

    Cause-and-effect rationale can shift dramatically when you look at underlying data: employment opportunities (and the lack thereof) by county, number and types of institutions of higher education in each county, cost of living, numbers of retirees, “permanent” residency, rates of in- and out-migration for students and others, availability of selected course offerings at local universities and community colleges, etc.

    For example, Graham County is at 9.19 (% college grads) while Watauga County is at 34.93, two extremes that certainly invite a closer look at underlying dynamics.

    As for Buncombe’s 30.65, with the large number of all types of higher education opportunities in the county, why isn’t that percentage much higher?

    I’m on the adjunct faculty at both a regional university and community college, and during the past decade I’ve seen remarkable change that reflects the underlying economic dynamics: middle-aged housewives returning to school, requirements to qualify for financial assistance, veterans on G. I. bill assistance, and a hefty number of people training for law enforcement and realtor licensure in spite of lack of jobs in those areas. (The only area with seemingly good prospect is health care, which is, of course, one of the underlying factors—the aging population and availability of health care facilities in each county.)

    In general, more people going to college now are focused on specific skills programs rather than non-specific liberal arts paths. Paying for and putting forth the time and effort to get a college degree solely for the sake of being “educated” has been dramatically devalued in recent decades, especially in the minds of most young people.

    And, quite simply, the counties that depend on tourism and second-home construction are not going to retain their home-grown college graduates forever.

    The new frontier for young people, especially college graduates, is in China. Check out China’s online employment recruitment sites. They’ll make you want to pack your bags today.

  21. bill smith

    So why is Buncombe Co. so much higher than the surrounding environs, Betty?

  22. Betty Cloer Wallace

    Bill, I don’t know, and neither does anyone else who has not considered a wide range of underlying demographics for all of WNC. The topic ought to be at least worthy of a senior thesis or an in-depth newspaper series.

    And, when making comparisons, using accurate numbers from the same census year helps! The interactive map included with this MtnX article shows that Buncombe’s current % is accurate at 30.65; but the quotes for the other counties used 10-year-old census data. Henderson is currently at 25.99 (not 24.13), Madison is currently at 19.37 (not 16.11), and Haywood is currently at 20.34 (not 15.98). Ten years ago Buncombe was at 25.26 %. All WNC counties increased their percentages in the last decade according to the interactive map, and the rate of increase for each county is worthy of consideration.

    Well-educated populations seem to cluster in places within driving distance of colleges and hospitals, so that might be one way to approach it—how many jobs in each county actually require some level of college?

    Looking at the current census numbers on the map, I thought the most interesting numbers for comparison were Watauga’s 34.93 %, Jackson’s 26.20, and Buncombe’s 30.65, since they all host state universities and community colleges.

  23. Betty Cloer Wallace

    Also, the interactive map on which this article is based shows that Buncombe was above the national average in exactly half of the censuses reported: 1940, 1950, 2000, and 2010.

    So more research into the intervening four decades when Buncombe was below the national average would be interesting: 1960, 1970, 1980, and 1990.

  24. Betty Cloer Wallace

    This MtnX article contains significant inaccurate and misleading data and really needs to be corrected.

    The reporter used last year’s census data for Buncombe County, but used ten-year-old 2000 census data for surrounding counties, which resulted in an erroneous disparity that resulted in specious and untoward reasoning by readers.

    Also, the reporter stated erroneously that With data stretching back to 1940, the Chronicle‘s map shows that college education in Buncombe was below the national average until about 2000, and has risen since (from 25.26 percent to its current level).

    Actually, the census map that the reporter quoted as the basis for this article shows that Buncombe was above the national average in exactly half of the eight censuses reported: 1940, 1950, 2000, and 2010, and below the national average in the other years: 1960, 1970, 1980, and 1990

    The reporter’s incorrect numbers and misleading statements resulted in reader comments speculating that an influx of educated outsiders since 2000 were the reason for Buncombe supposedly climbing above the national average for the first time since 2000—and I’m sure some of those comments would not have been made if the commenter had been given accurate numbers in the article.

  25. Betty Cloer Wallace

    And furthermore, the 2000 census was based on Buncombe having made that gain during the 1990s, not since 2000.

  26. Betty Cloer Wallace

    The AVL environs are suffering the worst of the WNC college graduate brain drain, and resolution is not to be found in the tourist destination of Asheville streets–or hoping that AVL’s anti-capitalist element will take care of the local economy, paving the streets and such.

  27. Betty Cloer Wallace

    Yes, dpewen. Stick around long enough and it will become apparent.

  28. dpewen

    OK, I have been here since 2005 and love it here.
    I basically do not understand what you are saying so it will never be apparent to me.
    Not a fan of the winters though so that is why I am moving to central america … plus not a fan of the usa.

  29. travelah

    foolish … it isn’t an attack. It is a statement of fact. Central America and it’s close regions have a lot of elements that do not like the US and us.

  30. dpewen

    Your comment tells me you have never been there.
    I spend many weeks there a year in various countries and have never seen encountered any problems.

  31. travelah

    I have never been there but it doesn’t change the facts of the matter. Enjoy your new home.

  32. dpewen

    Oh really? The fact is while most countries dislike america policies they like americans, especially ones like me who are not the ugly type.

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