Forsyth County has grown smarter, according to new data from the Atlanta Regional Commission.
Released Wednesday, the data looks at how Forsyth and 19 other counties in the state have succeeded in raising the percentage of residents with a bachelor’s degree, and lowering the rate of those without a high school diploma.
“In Forsyth County, there has been a greater focus over the last few years ... on doing everything we can to make sure the high school graduation rate is as high as it can be,” said James McCoy, president and chief executive officer of the Cumming-Forsyth County Chamber of Commerce.
The chamber, along with the school system and community, have worked on various projects to increase the number of students graduating from high school, including the SAT 2400 Challenge and PROPEL, or Pathways for Reaching
Opportunities in Preparing for Excellence in Life.
The programs aim to lift student performance, but also how students choose to be vested in their own future.
The county efforts are paying off, according to the ARC data.
In 2000, 14.3 percent of county residents lacked a high school diploma. Between 2005-09, an average of 9.6 percent of the county's population did not have one.
About 44 percent of the county’s population holds a bachelor’s degree.
Buster Evans, Forsyth County Schools superintendent, said the high level of education in the county only supports current students.
“Parents with higher levels of academic achievement typically value educational opportunities for their students. It is somewhat of a self-fulfilling prophecy,” he said.
“As our community continues to attract the type of high-tech, medical and engineering types of industry, I feel very good that we will continue to see underlying educational levels rise in Forsyth County.”
Forsyth’s percentage of population with a bachelor’s degree is second only to Fulton’s 45.8 percent in the 20-county ARC sample.
The county is also second lowest when it comes to percentage of the population without a high school diploma.
About 91.4 percent of the county has a high school diploma. Only Fayette County’s 94.6 percent is higher.
McCoy attributed part of that to the business industry that’s moved into the county over the past decade.
“We have a business culture that values education, and expects that from their employees,” he said. “I think the vitality of the whole region, particularly in Forsyth County, and the kind of businesses that we have ... attract well-educated people.”
The commission’s data compares metro Atlanta’s population’s education level to 19 other metro areas across the country, including Boston, Chicago, Detroit, Miami, New York, San Francisco and Washington, D.C.
In the metro Atlanta area, about 34 percent of the population has a bachelor’s degree and 13 percent have no high school diploma.
Statistics from Forsyth County helped raise metro Atlanta’s performance.
From highest to lowest, Georgia ranks ninth in percentage of people with at least a bachelor’s degree and 11th for those with no high school diploma.
Riverside, Calif., with about 19 percent, had the lowest population of those with a bachelor’s degree. Los Angeles, with 22 percent, had the highest number of people without a high school diploma.
Evans said he hopes the data will continue to show Forsyth improving, largely due to community assistance.
“That level of support is quite valuable to our community and school system, and it sends the message more and more that we need to provide the highest educational opportunities possible for our students,” he said.