Date of Award


Degree Name



College of Liberal Arts

Type of Degree


Document Type


First Advisor

Joshua Hagen

Second Advisor

James Leonard

Third Advisor

Kevin Law


This report analyzes key factors concerning West Virginia’s rank as last in the nation with residents that have obtained a four-year bachelor’s degree or higher. This quantitative study will examine political, economic, and sociological components at the state and county level using data collected primarily from various government and state institutions. An emphasis is placed on three main factors: poverty, parental education levels, and low socio-economic status (SES) high schools. Other variables analyzed will be high school graduation and dropout rates, free or reduced-price lunch (FRPL) eligibility, college retention rates, first-generation student population, and the influence of resource-extractive industries. Poverty had the highest correlation with educational attainment at the state level, but FRPL eligibility had the highest correlation with bachelor’s degree attainment in West Virginia. In relation to President Obama’s 2020 College Completion Goal, West Virginia needs to address this persistent problem in order to improve the strength of the state’s economy and compete with neighboring states. These results are applicable to state policy decisions concerning higher education.


Education, Higher - West Virginia.