Report Urges Action to Close Gaps in Postsecondary Attainment

Report Urges Action to Close Gaps in Postsecondary Attainment

The percentage of working-age Americans with two- or four-year college degrees rose from 39.4 percent in 2012 to 40 percent in 2013, a rate of increase that is insufficient to meet America's future economic and workforce needs, an annual report from the Lumina Foundation finds.

According to the 2015 edition of A Stronger Nation Through Higher Education (218 pages, PDF), the current rate of postsecondary attainment is not enough to put Goal 2025 — the foundation's initiative to raise the percentage of Americans with high-quality degrees and credentials to 60 percent by 2025 — within reach. Indeed, if current trends persist, the national postsecondary attainment rate will reach only 48.7 percent in 2025. The Georgetown Center on Education and the Workforce projects that by 2020, 65 percent of U.S. jobs will require some form of postsecondary education.

The report found that while postsecondary attainment rates increased for all racial/ethnic groups, significant disparities remain, with Asian Americans achieving the highest attainment rate (60.1 percent), followed by whites (44.5 percent), African Americans (28.1 percent), Native American (23.9 percent), and Latinos (20.3 percent), while among states, Massachusetts (51.5 percent ) and New Mexico (34.9 percent) had the highest and lowest attainment rates. The report also found that total college enrollment fell by some 600,000 students in 2013 — with the biggest drops among students age 25 and older, African Americans, and Native Americans.

To reach 60 percent postsecondary attainment, the report lays out a "Roadmap to Reach Goal 2025" that calls for stepped-up efforts to increase college persistence and completion rates; better targeting of "some college, no degree" population; and a greater focus on all forms of learning, including certificates and credentials.

"Economists and other experts give us good reason to be convinced that reaching Goal 2025 is a national imperative," said Lumina Foundation president and CEO Jamie P. Merisotis. "We have just ten 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."