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June 08, 2016

It’s a well-known fact that the high school population in Massachusetts is declining. Meanwhile, the rate at which the state's residents earn college degrees has continued to grow, and has long outpaced other states. But that trend is expected to be reversed.

A report released by the Massachusetts Department of Higher Education on Wednesday projects the rate at which Massachusetts residents earn college degrees will shift from growth to decline by 2022.

The study comes as employers are already struggling to fill jobs in high-demand fields like computer science and nursing, and over 600,000 college-educated workers in Massachusetts are reaching retirement age. Economists say fewer college-educated workers could slow the state's economic growth.

"Our aging population and slow-growing labor force are expected to curb job growth significantly in coming years," said Michael Goodman, executive director of the Public Policy Center at the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth. "This makes closing the achievement gap and improving access to affordable and high-quality higher education an essential economic and social imperative."

Part of the problem, according to the report, is that the state's public colleges and universities are unable to expand certain programs due to lack of funding and faculty hiring constraints.

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