Here's an interesting report on the value of a college degree:

How much is a bachelor's degree worth? About $23,000 a year, the government said in a report released Thursday.

That is the average gap in earnings between adults with bachelor's degrees and those with high school diplomas, according to data from the Census Bureau.

The report also talks about high school graduation rates...

Minnesota, Utah, Montana, New Hampshire and Alaska had the highest proportions of adults with at least a high school diploma - all at about 92 percent.

Texas had the lowest proportion of adults with at least a high school diploma, about 78 percent. It was followed closely by Kentucky and Mississippi.

and states with the highest percentage of college graduates:

Connecticut was the state with the highest proportion of adults with at least a bachelor's degree, nearly 37 percent. It was followed closely by Massachusetts, Maryland and New Jersey.

Nearly 47 percent of adults in Washington, D.C., had at least a bachelor's degree.

West Virginia had the lowest proportion of college graduates, at 15 percent. It was followed at the bottom by Arkansas, Kentucky and Louisiana.

The article also notes:

Chester Finn, president of the Thomas B. Fordham Institute in Washington, said too many high school graduates are unprepared to succeed in college.

"If you don't emerge from high school having done at least the equivalent of advanced algebra, you are not going to be ready for college math," Finn said. "You can make similar points about English."

But even for families who are motivated to get their kids into college, rising tuition costs are an obstacle. According to this report, the cost of college is rising faster than the rate of inflation:

The cost of tuition and fees at four-year public universities rose 6.3 percent from 2005 to 2006, capping an increase of 35 percent over five years, the nonprofit board reported. At the same time, the amount of federal financial aid available through Pell Grants hit a new low, the organization said.

"If we want to maintain a strong middle class in this country and remain competitive with other leading economies, we've got to make it possible for more young people to benefit from our excellent higher education system," said College Board President Gaston Caperton.

The study also found that "the continuing high cost of getting an education prevents many qualified low-income candidates from obtaining a college degree" and that "Talented low-income kids are less likely to go to college than high-income students of equal talent." The report also says that nearly two-thirds of students "rely on some form of financial assistance," yet at the same time the government has reduced funding for Pell Grants.

There is a correlation between lack of education and poverty, but as these reports suggest, poverty can preclude the opportunity for a better education. These reports are also a reminder that there is much work to be done here in the South. It starts with getting voters and taxpayers to place a higher value on education, especially public K-12 education.