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For the first time ever, a third of the 25-to 29-year-olds in the United States (US) have completed at least a bachelor’s degree and 90% in the same age group have finished at least a high school education, according to a Pew Research Center analysis of newly available census data in 2012. These records come a bit as a surprise given the dramatic immigration-driven changes in the racial and ethnic composition of college-age young adults that were once expected to cause a decline in educational attainment.
The study attributed the all-time high numbers to the sluggish job market in the “Great Recession” of 2007-2009, a change in the public attitudes about the importance of going to college in order to succeed in an increasingly knowledge-based labour market, and the increasing racial and ethnic diversity in the nation’s college-age population.
The US is not the only country that sees upward trends in college attainment, however. Similar developments or even faster growth have been observed in other advanced economies. A survey of more than 1 000 college presidents in the US conducted by the same research centre in 2012 shows a pessimistic outlook as only 19% of the surveyed presidents said that the US higher education system is currently the best in the world and a mere 7% believed that it will be the best in the world 10 years from now. They are concerned about the quality, preparedness and study habits of college students today.Pew Research Center