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INDIANAPOLIS – A new report released today by Lumina Foundation reveals real progress has been made in the national effort to increase postsecondary attainment, but current rates won’t be enough to meet America’s future economic and workforce demands. The annual report, A Stronger Nation through Higher Education, finds that unless actions are taken now to significantly increase postsecondary attainment, the nation will fall short of workforce needs by the end of this decade.
According to the Georgetown Center on Education and the Workforce, 65 percent of U.S. jobs will require some form of postsecondary education by 2020. Yet, according to Lumina’s A Stronger Nation through Higher Education report, only 40 percent of working-age Americans (ages 25-64) held a two- or four-year college degree in 2013—the most recent year for which data are available. That figure is up from 2012, when the rate was 39.4 percent, and from 2008, when the rate was 37.9 percent, or a total of more than 2.8 million more degrees.
This progress reflects both increasing demand for postsecondary credentials and the efforts of higher education institutions, policymakers and many others to respond to that demand. But, these incremental gains aren’t nearly enough to reach the goal—a national effort calling for 60 percent of Americans to have a high-quality postsecondary degree, certificate or other credential by the year 2025.
“Economists and other experts give us good reason to be convinced that reaching the 2025 attainment goal is a national imperative,” said Jamie P. Merisotis, president and CEO of Lumina Foundation. “We have just 10 years to reach it, and our current pace of progress is insufficient for meeting employers’ workforce needs and addressing the growing inequality issues we face as a nation. For America to truly prosper—for the nation to attain, not just individual opportunity and economic security, but social justice and cohesion—an increased sense of urgency is needed to expand college success dramatically, and in all directions.”
The Stronger Nation report shows big degree attainment gaps continue to exist by race. Asian adults (ages 25-64) lead all races with 60.1 percent degree attainment (up from 59.4 percent), and Whites follow with 44.5 percent attainment (up from 43.9 percent). But the African American adult attainment rate is 28.1 percent (up from 27.6 percent), the rate for Native American adults is 23.9 percent (up from 23.4 percent) and the rate for Hispanic adults is 20.3 percent (up from 19.8 percent).
The good news is that attainment rates by race increased across the board from 2012 to 2013. And attainment rates among young adults (ages 25-34)—a promising indicator of future results—continue to outpace the overall adult population.
But, enrollment trends are less encouraging. While the number of college graduates increased again in 2013—with 2.9 million obtaining associate and bachelor’s degrees—enrollment went down by 600,000 students, most notably among adult students. Enrollment was also down among African American and Native American students and flat among Hispanic students.
A Stronger Nation estimates that if current trends continue, 30.7 million more Americans will earn college credentials by 2025. That increase will allow the nation to reach an attainment rate of 48.7 percent over the next 10 years—well short of the 60 percent needed. To reach the Goal, Lumina estimates that another 19.8 million postsecondary credentials will need to be added. According to A Stronger Nation, there are three areas where action is most needed to move the attainment needle in America.
50. WV—28.4% (up from 27.8%)
49. AR—28.8% (down from 29.3% in 2012)
48. LA—29.6% (up from 29.1% in 2012)
47. MS—30.5% (down from 31.1 %)
46. NV—31.1% (up from 30.1%)
45. OK—32.7% (down from 32.9%)
44. KY—32.9% (up from 31.7%)
43. TN—33.8% (up from 33.3%)
42. IN—34.7% (up from 34.4%)
41. NM—34.9% (down from 35.1%)
100. McAllen-Edinburg-Mission, Texas—22.12%
99. Bakersfield, Calif.—22.45%
98. Fresno, Calif.—27.08%
97. Riverside-San Bernardino-Ontario, Calif.—27.50%
96. Stockton-Lodi, Calif.—27.64%
95. Lakeland-Winter Haven, Fla.—27.89%
94. Las Vegas-Henderson-Paradise, Nev.—29.74%
93. Youngstown-Warren-Boardman, Ohio—30.46%
92. El Paso, Texas—30.68%
91. Deltona-Daytona Beach-Ormond Beach, Fla.—31.45%
Lumina Foundation is an independent, private foundation in Indianapolis that is committed to making opportunities for learning beyond high school available to all. We envision a system that is easy to navigate, delivers fair results, and meets the nation’s need for talent through a broad range of credentials. Our goal is to prepare people for informed citizenship and for success in a global economy.Back to News