U.S. Grad Rate Increases; Is It Enough?

A new report published by the Lumina Foundation this week shows a slight increase in the number of Americans who hold postsecondary degrees. U.S. Census data puts the percentage of Americans with either two- or four-year college degrees in 2014 at 40.4%, up from 40.0% in 2012 and 37.9% in 2008.

While increased attainment is welcome news for all who believe in the power of a college education, experts agree that this progress is not happening quickly enough to satisfy the demands of an increasingly sophisticated job market. This slow rate of growth is especially troubling given projections by Georgetown’s Center on Education and the Workforce, which predict that 60% of all jobs in the United States will require postsecondary education by the year 2020.

What can be done to increase graduation rates? For one, the significant lags in attainment by low-income and first-generation students need to be addressed. As recently as 2013, only 9% of students from the bottom income quartile earned a college degree by age 24, while 77% of those in the top-income quartile did. Students whose parents do not hold college degrees face similarly stark odds.

These realities about equity and access at the college level, coupled with the well-documented importance of a college degree for addressing socioeconomic disparity, underpin the work that we do at Meritus. As we begin to welcome our 20th class, we are increasingly reminded of why college completion is so essential for our Scholars.

Further reading:

A Stronger Nation Lumina Report Overview

Recovery 2020 Georgetown Center on Education and the Workforce

The Slow Growth of College-Graduation Rates The Atlantic

Rate of Increase in Degree-Holders Continues to Lag Behind National Goal The Hechinger Report

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