Friday, January 7, 2011

American Community Survey: Jobs attract well-educated to Frederick County

Originally published January 07, 2011
By Marge Neal News-Post Staff

Frederick County is a fairly well-educated community compared with the rest of Maryland and the nation, according to statistics released by the U.S. Census Bureau.

The American Community Survey report shows that most Frederick County municipalities surpass state and national averages of residents 25 and older who have achieved certain educational milestones.

Nearly 35 percent of Frederick County's 145,998 residents in that age group have a bachelor's degree or higher. Nearly 8 percent more have an associate degree.

Middletown is particularly well-educated, with more than one of every two town residents possessing a bachelor's degree or higher.

With 1,819 residents age 25 or older, Middletown has 617 residents — 33.9 percent — with a bachelor's degree and 367 — 20.2 percent — with a graduate or professional degree. Nationally, 17.4 percent of that population holds a bachelor's degree, and 10.1 percent has a graduate or professional degree. In Maryland, the numbers are slightly higher, with 19.6 percent of residents 25 and older holding a bachelor's degree and 15.6 percent holding graduate degrees. In Mount Airy, 41.3 percent of the 5,308 residents 25 and older hold at least a bachelor's degree.

Frederick County was more educated at the less-educated end of the spectrum, too. In the U.S., more than 12.5 million people — 6.4 percent of those 25 or older — have less than a ninth-grade education. In Maryland, 162,023 people — 4.3 percent of residents 25 and older — have less than a ninth-grade education. Less than 1 percent of New Market and Myersville residents fall into that category. The only municipalities with rates higher than state or national rates in the category are Burkittsville at 5.9 percent and Emmitsburg at 5.6 percent.

Frederick's educational level could be attributed to the number of local employers that require a minimum of a bachelor's degree, according to Paula Lawton, executive director of human resources for Frederick County Public Schools. Employers, such as the many entities at Fort Detrick, require advanced degrees, she said, which would account for Frederick County's higher rates of education attainment. The school system employs more than 5,000 people, many of whom are required to have a bachelor's degree when hired and who then pursue higher degrees. Lawton estimated that 1,008 FCPS employees have bachelor's degrees; 648 have a bachelor's with master's degree equivalency; 784 have master's degrees; 1,287 employees have a master's degree plus 30 semester hours, and 37 have doctoral degrees.

Middletown Town Administrator Drew Bowen said he wasn't surprised to hear of the high educational levels of town residents. Middletown has become a bedroom community for professionals who work in Washington and Baltimore, he said. "As people have kids, they want to move out of the more metropolitan areas and find a more quiet, small town to live in," he said. "They look for a 45-minute to one-hour commute and if you draw a circle from D.C. and Baltimore, Frederick County is it." He said he believed Middletown has changed from a farming community to a place where many professional work in the city.

Lawton said there might be a correlation between housing prices and the education level of Middletown residents. "People with advanced degrees are going to have a higher lifetime income than those without those degrees, and they will be drawn to the areas where the houses are a tick higher," she said. "The people with advanced degrees can afford more expensive houses."