The Good and Bad News in College Attainment Trends

Posted by Center for American Progress on April 30, 2018

Sky high prices. Student loans that are burdensome for far too many. Large numbers of students who start college but never finish. Look at the headlines in higher education today, and you’ll be hard pressed to find anything but bad news.

These are grave concerns. However, they’re not the whole story of American higher education. The United States has made progress on improving college attainment. According to data from the U.S. Census Bureau’s American Community Survey (ACS), the percentage of adults aged 25 to 34 who earned an associate degree or more grew from 40.4 percent in 2007 to 47.8 percent in 2017. That represents more than 5 million additional Americans with a college degree over 10 years.

Digging deeper into this boost in attainment reveals two important stories: one an achievement, the other cause for significant concern.

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