Akron, Ohio!  With a 20.2 percent increase in post-secondary degrees awarded over the past three years, Akron outpaced the 56 other metro areas entered in the Talent Dividend Prize contest.  As the winner of the Talent Dividend Prize, Akron will receive one million dollars to promote further efforts to raise college attainment in Northeast Ohio.  For more details about the prize winners, visit Living Cities.

The prize contest was launched four years ago with the support of the Kresge and Lumina Foundations.

The competition was built on the observation that education is the single most important factor in driving metropolitan economic success.  Research shows that about 60 percent of the variation in per capita personal income among large U.S. metropolitan areas is the fraction of the adult population that has earned a four-year college degree.

As Bill Moses of the Kresge Foundation noted at the prize announcement ceremony, one of the hallmarks of the Talent Dividend prize is cross-sector collaboration.  The competition recognized from the beginning that increasing educational attainment was not just an issue of interest or importance to colleges and universities, but in order to be successful has to engage the business community local government and others and to tie education directly to the economic development agenda.  By offering the award for a collective, community-wide performance, the prize competition catalyzed broader partnerships in participating communities.

The prize was awarded to Akron because it was the city which achieved the largest population-weighted increase in 2-year, 4-year and advanced degrees awarded between 2009-10 and 2012-13.  (Four-year and advanced degrees are double-weighted in this calculation, reflecting their greater economic impact).  Over the past three years, the 57 competing cities have increased the number of 2-year degrees by 69,000 and the number of 4-year degrees by 55,000.  In the aggregate, the competing cities increased the number of degrees awarded by 7.6 percent more than their growth in population.

So the great thing about the Talent Dividend Prize is that every community is a winner.  Increasing educational attainment pays a big dividend to communities.  On average, every one percentage point improvement in educational attainment is associated with a $835 dollar increase in per capita personal income.  The participating cities also have strengthened their capability for local collaboration around these issues, which will likely pay additional dividends going forward.

(Updated October 30, to reflect the announcement of the winner).