Stronger Nation 2016: Postsecondary Attainment

Posted by Lumina Foundation on April 25, 2016

New Report Shows National Postsecondary Attainment Rate Rises to More Than 45 Percent

First-time data on certificates add to understanding of attainment; Urgent action needed to increase postsecondary success—even with steady progress on degrees, more needed for 2025 goal

The U.S. is making slow, but steady progress in the number of Americans who hold high-quality credentials beyond high school diplomas. New data on nationwide postsecondary attainment released today by Lumina Foundation in its latest A Stronger Nation report indicates that 40.4 percent of working-age Americans (ages 25-64) held high-quality two- or four-year degrees in 2014, the latest U.S. Census Bureau (American Community Survey) figures available, up slightly from 40.0 percent in 2013.

For the first time, this year’s Stronger Nation report also includes data on the attainment of postsecondary certificates. According to nationally representative survey data obtained by NORC at the University of Chicago, 4.9 percent of Americans hold high-quality postsecondary certificates. Certificates, which are often awarded by community and technical colleges, have significant value in the workforce and can provide the basis and gateway for further education.

Including the newly obtained NORC data, A Stronger Nation puts overall postsecondary attainment at 45.3 percent nationally.* The current rate of year-over-year increase is not sufficient to achieve the Foundation’s Goal 2025—that by 2025, 60 percent of Americans hold high quality postsecondary degrees or certificates. In fact, the U.S. is projected to fall short of that number by 10.9 million people if the pace continues unchanged.

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