One in Four State Lawmakers Lacks Bachelor's Degree

Odds are if you didn't get a college degree, you still have a good shot at getting elected to state office, according to a new report by the Chronicle of Higher Education.

One in four of the nation's 7,400 elected lawmakers do not have a bachelor's degree, the report found.

The dubious honor of being the least formally educated legislature goes to Arkansas, where 25 percent of its 135 legislators had no college experience whatsoever. The runner-up was Montana with 20 percent. Kansas, South Dakota and Arizona each had 16 percent with no higher education.

California was at the head of class of the most educated statehouses with 90 percent of legislators holding at least a bachelor's degree. And they get paid handsomely, too -- $95,000 salary for each of the 80 assemblymen, who represent about 400,000 people a piece.

Virginia was next with 89 percent, then Nebraska and New York with 87 percent and Texas with 86 percent.

With only 27.5 percent of Americans holding at least a bachelor's degree, some conclude it may be good to have fewer over-educated lawmakers representing the general population.

"Legislators aren't only supposed to represent the white-collar workers of the world. They need to represent everybody," Adam Brown, a political scientist at Brigham Young University who conducted similar research using the same data, told the Chronicle.

"Bearing in mind how many voters lack higher education, I'm not sure that a legislature could fairly represent a state's diversity if it didn't include people from diverse educational, economic, racial, religious, and vocational backgrounds," Brown said.

But getting into Congress without a college degree is much more challenging. Only four of the 535 members of Congress lack a bachelor's degree. Three out of four U.S. senators have advanced degrees and more than half of them are lawyers. In the lower chamber, 65 percent of representatives have advanced degrees.