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Campaign aims to boost college degree tally for Hawaii’s working population

Gov. Neil Abercrombie and state education leaders pledged their commitment today to significantly boost the number of adults earning college degrees in the islands over the next decade.

The move is seen as key to preparing the state’s workforce for competitive jobs.

The nonprofit Hawaii P-20 Partnerships for Education set a goal back in 2007 to have 55 percent of the working population holding two- or four-year college degrees by 2025.

“Hawaii as a state is doing better in college attainment, but the growth is too slow,” said Karen Lee, executive director of Hawaii P-20, a statewide coalition led by the Executive Office on Early Learning, Department of Education and University of Hawaii system. (“P-20” refers to the educational pipeline from preschool through college.)

Lee said that as of 2012, less than 42 percent of Hawaii’s adults held an associate’s or bachelor’s degree. She said the rate is especially alarming in light of a recent a report by the Georgetown University Center on Education and Workforce showing that 65 percent of jobs here will require some college by 2018.

“We need to prepare our students to be ready for those jobs,” she said. “Our educators are doing a great job, but they can’t work in a vacuum. We need families, business leaders, community groups and the general public to pledge their support to help Hawaii’s keiki and students to strive higher.”

At a press conference held today, Lee’s group announced the launch of its so-called 55 by ’25 campaign, which aims to increase public awareness and support for the initiative.

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