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In line with many other countries around the world, the United States is concerned about cultivating an educated population to ensure economic and social prosperity. Fundamental to this effort is the idea that a critical mass of the working population should hold a post-secondary degree. News out of the US this month indicates that progress is being made on this front, but there are also indications that more may need to be done to achieve key targets.
With regard to bachelor degrees, the US Census Bureau released figures on 23 February that showed that, for the first time, the proportion of the US population over age 25 holding at least a bachelor degree surpassed 30%. Specifically, the bureau’s Educational Attainment in the United States: 2011 data show that this figure stands at 30.4%, up from 26.2% a decade ago.
Overall, in 2011 there is clear progress in bachelor degree attainment across all major population sub-categories (e.g. by race and gender), but significant variations in performance are evident across these groups, as well. For example:
With regard to two- and four-year degree attainment, findings released in March by the Lumina Foundation (a leading higher education research and philanthropic organisation in the United States) also register modest gains from 2009 to 2010. Lumina’s newest report on this subject, A Stronger Nation through Higher Education, notes that, at the current rate of growth, “only 79.8 million working-age Americans (46.5% of those aged 25-64) will hold degrees by 2025”. This falls short (by 23 million degree holders) of Lumina’s so-called “Big Goal”: to increase the proportion of Americans with high-quality degrees and credentials to 60 percent by the year 2025. The quest to produce more degree holders in the United States clearly continues.Lumina Foundation United States Census Bureau