Report Shows College Attainment Is Rising But Not Fast Enough

March 27, 2012

College graduatesA new report has found that the number of degree holders in the United States is increasing slowly, but is still falling short of a goal for 60 percent of the American population to hold a college credential by 2025.

The report by the Lumina Foundation, titled "A Stronger Nation Through Higher Education," found that 38.3 percent of adults ages 25 to 64 held either a two- or four-year degree in 2010. In 2009, the number was 38.1 percent, and in 2008, it was 37.9 percent. While the growth is encouraging, the current rate would only bring the level of college attainment to 46.5 percent by 2025 -- over 23 million degrees short of the 60 percent goal set by the foundation.

"More people are graduating from college, but the current pace is not sufficient," said Jamie P. Merisotis, president and chief executive officer of Lumina, in a press release. "America is grappling with how to grow jobs, skills and opportunity, and this report highlights the economic imperative of getting a postsecondary degree."

The report included completion rates broken down by state, and for the first time, the number of degree holders in the 100 largest populated metropolitan areas in the United States. Washington, D.C. placed first in the rankings, with 54.4 percent of adults holding at least an associate's degree. Placing second and third were Boston, at 54 percent, and the San Francisco and Oakland area, at 52.9 percent.

Merisotis noted that the Lumina Foundation decided to include the local rates because more cities and states are beginning to take notice of their college attainment rates.

"It's not something that has gotten public attention before," he was quoted as saying by The Chronicle of Higher Education. "We are happy about all the goal-setting that is going on."

The Lumina report comes on the heels of figures released by the Census Bureau last month, which indicated that over 30 percent of adults in the United States now hold bachelor's degrees. Those numbers also indicated that minorities made significant gains in bachelor degree attainment.

Degree attainment is significant because of its effect on the workforce and the economy as a whole. "America's youth are running faster in the race to college but not keeping up with skill and employer demand on the job," noted Anthony Carnevale, director of The Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce, who was quoted by Inside Higher Ed. "Currently, even in the great recession, supply is growing by one percent and demand is growing twice as fast."

Compiled by Yaffa Klugerman


"New Report Finds Modest Gains in America's College Attainment Rates; Speed of Progress Must Be Accelerated to Improve Our Nation's Prospects,", March 26, 2012

"Not Quite Complete,", March 27, 2012, Paul Fain

"Number of U.S. Degree Holders Is Rising, Slowly, Toward Lumina's 'Big Goal,'", March 26, 2012, Jennifer Gonzalez

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