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Scott Walker would be the first presidential nominee without a college degree in 50 years

Libby Nelson is Vox's policy editor, leading coverage of how government action and inaction shape American life. Libby has more than a decade of policy journalism experience, including at Inside Higher Ed and Politico. She joined Vox in 2014.

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, who's poised for a presidential campaign, doesn't have a college degree. If he wins the nomination, that would make him the first nominee without a degree in more than 50 years, according to this chart from the Pew Research Center:

Presidential candidates without a college degree

The last time a nominee without a college degree was fairly common was the second half of the 19th century – when the high school graduation rate was less than 25 percent, the median American had less than an eighth-grade education. College degrees were the province of a tiny elite. In the 1920s, when two candidates without a degree ran (and lost), most Americans still weren't finishing high school.

When the Washington Post ran a story profiling Walker's time at Marquette University, many conservatives cried foul, accusing the media of an elitist bias. Plus, conservatives and others argued, Walker's political persona is at least in part as a Midwestern-everyman.

It's true that having some college but no degree, like Walker, is far from unusual. And since he dropped out in his senior year of college, it's likely that he got most of the benefits of a college education already. But it's an intriguing fact in part because it makes him a historical outlier — long before Americans themselves were college-educated, they were picking college-educated men to be their presidents.

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