US College Degree Attainment Remains Stagnant as Other Countries Pull Ahead

eduAccording to a December 2012 report by the Center for Public Education, the percentage of young adults in the US who are  college graduates has not significantly changed from the percentage of college graduates aged 55-64. This contrasts with the great gains that have been made in other parts of the world (such as South Korea, Japan, and most of the EU) where the percentage of college graduates is significantly rising each year. For those aged 25-34, the United States  now ranks 14th in the world for the percentage of workers with a college degree. While the United States remains 2nd in the world for 4 year degree attainment, just behind Norway, the main lag is in 2-year degree attainment, where the United States comes in 18th place.

The report shows that students fare better in college if they are well prepared in high school. This is especially true for low-income and low-performing students. According to the Council on Competitiveness, “simply being an American is not an entitlement to a secure, high-wage job” due to competition from emerging markets.  To win the skills race, workers need to attain a higher level of education, and success starts in K-12 programs.

The recent PAGE publication by education reformer, Paul Vallas: “Making a Success of Every School”, points out that it is not underinvestment that is hurting our public schools (out of OECD countries, the United States spends the 2nd most on public education), it is “the inability to invest wisely in the systemic reforms that would remove obstacles impeding the modernization of our educational system to meet new realities.”  Some strategies to improve American K-12 education include: providing greater access to educational technology in classrooms, encouraging partnerships between high schools and local vocational or community colleges, and ensuring the financial predictability that is crucial to long-term planning. The US system must evolve to meet the challenges of the 21st century if its workers are to remain competitive in global markets.

Posted by: Ben Copper

Sources: Center for Public Education, Council on Competitiveness

Photo Credit: Teacher in Classroom courtesy of Flickr user


2 Responses to US College Degree Attainment Remains Stagnant as Other Countries Pull Ahead

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