College Attainment Rates Increase Modestly, Report Finds

College Attainment Rates Increase Modestly, Report Finds

Although the percentage of working-age Americans with two- or four-year college degrees grew modestly in 2010, the pace of improvement remains too slow to attain Goal 2025, a national effort to boost the percentage of Americans with high-quality degrees and credentials to 60 percent by 2025, a report from the Lumina Foundation finds.

According to the report, A Stronger Nation Through Higher Education (136 pages, PDF), 38.3 percent of working-age Americans (ages 25-64) held two- or four-year degrees in 2010, up from 38.1 percent in 2009 and 37.9 percent in 2008. If current trends continue, however, only 79.8 million working-age Americans (46.5. percent of those aged 25-64) will hold a degree by 2025 — some 23 million degrees short of the 2025 goal.

The report did note an improvement in the degree-attainment rate among young adults (ages 25-34), outpacing gains in the rate among adults overall. The report also found modest gains in degree attainment across racial/ethnic adult populations. As of 2010, those rates were 59.36 percent for Asians, 42.96 percent for whites, 26.84 percent for African Americans, 22.83 percent for Native Americans, and 19.21 percent for Hispanics. The top five states for college degree attainment as of 2010 were Massachusetts (50.54 percent), Colorado (45.98 percent), New Hampshire (45.85 percent), Connecticut (45.84 percent), and Minnesota (45.79 percent).

"More people are graduating from college, but the current pace is not sufficient," said Lumina Foundation president and CEO Jamie P. Merisotis. "America is grappling with how to grow jobs, skills, and opportunity, and this report highlights the economic imperative of getting a postsecondary degree. This issue can't be wished away by fanciful talk about higher education 'bubbles' and whether college is worth it. Education is the only route to economic prosperity for both individuals and the nation. That should matter to policy makers. It should matter to business leaders. And it certainly should matter to our education leaders."

"New Report Finds Modest Gains in America's College Attainment Rates." Lumina Foundation Press Release 03/26/2012.