College attainment is increasing, slowly but steadily, reports the Lumina Foundation. As of 2011, 38.7 percent of working-age Americans had earned a two- or four-year college degree and another 5 percent of adults held a “postsecondary certificate with significant economic value.”
Young adults (ages 25-34) do slightly better: 40.1 percent have earned an associate or bachelor’s degree.
Lumina’s Goal 2025 — 60 percent of adults with a high-value certificate or degree — will require faster progress, the report states.
Higher education pays off, even in a tough economy, Lumina argues.
Between the beginning of the recession in December 2007 and its official end in January 2010, the economy lost 5.6 million jobs for Americans with a high school education or less. Jobs requiring an associate degree or some college declined by 1.75 million, while the number of jobs for Americans with a bachelor’s degree or above actually grew by 187,000.
. . . Since the end of the recession, jobs requiring an associate degree or some college have grown by 1.6 million and almost recovered to pre-recession levels. Jobs for bachelor’s degree holders actually have accelerated their growth — adding 2 million new jobs during the recovery.
Jobs for workers with only a high school diploma continue to decline.
Recent college graduates are far more likely to be employed than high school graduates: 88 percent of 23- and 24-year-old college graduates have jobs compared to 65 percent of less-educated workers the same age. “The wage premium — the gap between what employers are willing to pay for graduates vs. those who don’t have a postsecondary credential — is actually growing, and has continued to grow throughout the recession and its aftermath.”