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Degree Attainment in U.S. Continues to Increase, Especially for Young Adults

Quick Takeaways

  • Postsecondary attainment in 2014 was 45.3 percent, which includes 40.4 percent of U.S. adults who attained a degree (two-year or four-year) and 4.9 percent of U.S. adults who obtained a high-quality credential.
  • Adults 25 to 34 had the largest boost in degree attainment from 2008 to 2014, rising from 37.8 percent to 42.3 percent.
  • While these numbers bode well for potential increases in attainment, they are “still not enough to get the nation to Goal 2025,” wherein 60 percent of U.S. adults hold degrees, certificates, or other high-quality credentials by 2025, according to the Lumina Foundation.

By Brittany Hackett, Communications Staff

The degree-attainment rate among U.S. adults between the ages of 25 and 64 has increased slightly from 2008 to 2014, indicating a promising trend in the national effort to meet Goal 2025, according to a new report from the Lumina Foundation.

An annual report, A Stronger Nation: 2015 tracks two- and four-year college degree attainment rates among U.S. adults between the ages of 25 and 64 using data from 2014. Overall, the postsecondary attainment rate in 2014 was 45.3 percent, which includes 40.4 percent of U.S. adults who attained a degree (two-year or four-year) and 4.9 percent of U.S. adults who obtained a high-quality credential. Adults between the ages of 25 and 34 had the largest boost in degree attainment from 2008 to 2014, rising from 37.8 percent to 42.3 percent.

The increase in degree attainment shows “real progress” since Stronger Nation was first published in 2008, when the rate was 37.9 percent. The increase, according to the 2015 report, “represents more than 4.2 million additional Americans with college degrees.”

While these numbers bode well for potential increases in attainment, they are “still not enough to get the nation to Goal 2025,” wherein 60 percent of U.S. adults hold degrees, certificates, or other high-quality credentials by 2025, according to Lumina. The Foundation’s projection model estimates that about 35.7 million Americans will obtain some kind of postsecondary credentials if the current rates continue. However, an additional 10.9 million more Americans must be added to that number if Goal 2025 is to be reached.

During an event on Monday to coincide with the release of the report, Lumina Foundation President and CEO Jamie Merisotis said that the biggest challenge and opportunity to reaching Goal 2025 is to make the higher education system more effective, efficient, productive, and equitable--particularly for underserved populations.

“We do not get to these attainment goals unless they run through every African American and Latino household in America,” Merisotis said.

 

Publication Date: 4/12/2016


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