At a time when economic development agencies are trying to attract more high-skills professionals to Lakeland, a new study quantifies the challenge, finding the Lakeland-Winter Haven metro area ranks 140 out of 150 in education attainment. measured the education levels in the nation’s top metro areas by looking at several factors, including the percentage of adults with high school diplomas, some college training, college degrees, or graduate degrees.

Looking at education levels, the metro area known as Lakeland-Winter Haven (really, it’s all of Polk County) ranked 138 out of 150.

Education levels counted for 80 percent of the area’s total score. The other 20 percent was a measure of “quality of education and attainment gap” that looked at public school system rankings, quality of area universities, number of students in top universities and degree gaps by race and gender. Lakeland-Winter Haven ranked 103 out of 150 cities in this area.

Polk’s composite score of 27.05 out of a potential 100 (top-scoring Ann Arbor came in at 94.89) put it at 140th overall.

Source: WalletHub

Check detailed rankings

For Steve Scruggs of the Lakeland Economic Development Council the low scores illustrate a challenge his agency faces as it attempts to attract companies that employ high-skill workers.

“Today’s consumers make informed decisions based on easily accessible data like WalletHub’s study.  These consumers make decisions regarding where to send their children to school based on that data,” he said.  “Every parent wants to send their child to the best schools.  Not every parent has a choice. These parents have a choice, and many of them are choosing ‘A’ schools in Hillsborough County.”

Other Florida rankings include:

  • Tallahassee (11)
  • Palm Bay-Melbourne-Titusville (69)
  • Orlando-Kissimmee (73)
  • North Port-Sarasota-Bradenton (78)
  • Naples-Immokalee-Marco Island (80)
  • West Palm Beach-Fort LauderdaleMiami (83)
  • Tampa-St. Petersburg-Clearwater (86)
  • Jacksonville (93)
  • Pensacola-Ferry Pass-Brent (106)
  • Cape Coral-Fort Myers (113)
  • Deltona-Daytona Beach-Ormond Beach (117)
  • Port St. Lucie (119)
  • Ocala (138)

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Barry Friedman founded in 2015 as the culmination of a career in print and digital journalism. Since 1982, he has used the tools of reporting, editing and content curation to help people in Lakeland understand their community better.

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