U.S. college degree rate rises but at pace well short of needs: study

Thu Jun 13, 2013 7:51pm EDT

Graduating students attend their spring commencement ceremony at Ohio State University in Columbus, May 5, 2013. REUTERS/Jason Reed

Graduating students attend their spring commencement ceremony at Ohio State University in Columbus, May 5, 2013.

Credit: Reuters/Jason Reed

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(Reuters) - The percentage of working-age U.S. adults who hold a college degree has increased incrementally during the last few years but at a pace well short of what is needed to meet future workforce needs, a report released on Thursday said.

The report, published by the Lumina Foundation, showed that 38.7 percent of Americans held a two- or four-year college degree in 2011, the most current year for which data is available, up from 38.3 percent in 2010 and 38.1 percent in 2009.

At the current trajectory, the rate for adults ages 25 to 64 will reach 48.1 percent in 2025, the study said. That is well short of a 60 percent goal set by the study's authors.

The study was based on data from the American Community Survey, a sample of a small percentage of the U.S. population compiled each year by the U.S. Census Bureau.

The president and chief executive of the Indiana-based Lumina Foundation, Jamie Merisotis, said in the report that gaps in educational achievement are linked to race, income and class and reflect "persistent inequities that have dogged us for decades."

Merisotis, whose organization promotes higher education, also said first-generation status, military service and current employment have contributed to challenges facing the United States in increasing the percentage of college-educated adults.

The Lumina Foundation made 70 grants totaling $30 million in 2012, according to its website.

(Reporting by Brendan O'Brien in Milwaukee; Editing by Cynthia Johnston and Steve Orlofsky)

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Comments (3)
Burns0011 wrote:
It doesn’t help that just having a degree isn’t enough. There are so many worthless degrees that won’t help you get a job. You have to have a degree in a field where people are actually *hiring*, and there are fewer of those than you might think.

Jun 18, 2013 1:43am EDT  --  Report as abuse
COindependent wrote:
As stated above, it really depends on what type of degree you have. With the myriad of degrees being granted, many with diminished value in the marketplace, we need to rethink what our educational system is providing. The issue with the “shortfall” in the number of degrees granted is that the return on the education investment is declining as the costs supersede the long term value. The education establishment is failing in two critical areas (a) the programs are being run with the interests of the administration and faculty taking priority (starting with the myriad of “studies” programs, and (b) the academic rigor is marginal. Thus, more students in the available seats perpetuates the primary (a) objective.

The end result is that you have graduates with marginal skills in the basics (writing, mathematics) and little capacity for critical thinking required by employers.

As for the issues associated with race, income and class mentioned above, one only has to look at the degree programs pursued by the majority of these students, with very small percentages in STEM programs (where the greatest demand is), as they are typically more rigorous academically. The Lumina Foundation by their own research overlooks the fact that for the past 30 years we have offered preferences based on race with questionable returns on the investment. The question must be asked if the problem is with the student, the defined agenda, or some combination of the two.

Reasonable analysis will show that it’s a combination of the two in that (c) students are being admitted to schools for which they are not properly prepared, thus with a very low opportunity for success, and (d) the agenda is flawed when you have about 50% of incoming freshman failing to complete their degree program.

Jun 18, 2013 9:26am EDT  --  Report as abuse
WallaBingBang wrote:
So, even though many many people of this generation are not getting jobs after graduation, or getting a job with a salary that will keep them living with their parents or in debt for years, there’s not enough people getting degrees? That is ridiculous. I am including STEM degrees in this, as I have seen it first and second hand.

Higher education is big business, and it makes sense a study would come to the conclusion that more people need to get degrees. This coming from universities that hire an overwhelming majority of adjunct faculty, not because there are a lot of people who want to be underpaid, but because there are so many people with graduate degrees that the university can. The adjunct don’t complain because there is always the possibility that, if you work hard enough and smile enough, you might get a full time contract. This includes not just community colleges, but also very expensive private universities.

In the end you have universities making large amounts of money, adjunct professors who work at least 150% more than full time at 2-3 universities, and students getting a poor education that will be of little benefit once they graduate (always being told how they must go to college). It is a scam.

Jun 18, 2013 10:22am EDT  --  Report as abuse
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