Number of Americans with Degrees on the Rise

By Samantha Gordon
Posted July 09, 2013 11:00 AM

More Americans with degrees shows promise for the future.
More Americans with degrees shows promise for the future.

The nation has been abuzz with news that the number of jobs requiring applicants to have degrees is on the rise, and a recent report shows that Americans are working to catch up with this trend by pursuing associate's degrees and bachelor's degrees. The study by the Lumina Foundation, titled "A Stronger Nation Through Higher Education," is conducted every year to track the growth of working American adults who hold either 2-year or 4-year degrees, because the foundation is on a mission to realize a goal of 60% by 2025. So far, it looks as though things are progressing well, as the report showed improvement across the nation.

More Degree Holders Than Ever Show Promise for the Future

In 2011, 38.7% of American adults between the ages of 25 and 64 held either associate's degrees or bachelor's degrees, which is an improvement from 2010's 38.3%. The earliest data available from Lumina shows that the percentage of degree holders in 2008 was only 37.9%, which is less than a 1% difference, but it still shows promise, as more people are enrolling in colleges and universities than in previous years. The study did not examine the data surrounding higher degree levels such as master's degrees and doctoral degrees, but researchers believe at least 5% of those with 2-year and 4-year degrees also have economically significant postsecondary certificates.

Lumina's "Goal 2025" was put in place to help raise awareness of the need for more Americans to seek out higher education, and their short-term aspirations include increasing enrollment among older adults, African-Americans and Hispanic individuals among other efforts that will help encourage more people to attend college.

Not All States Are Created Equal

While the nation as a whole appears to be doing well in terms of higher education growth, certain states are faring better than others. The Los Angeles Times reports California came in 25th in terms of growth, with only 38.9% of the state's population holding degrees. While this is higher than average, the growth in the state has been slow, indicating Californians may not make the grade by 2025. The number of degree holders has grown by one-tenth of a percent annually since 2009. Massachusetts on the other hand, ranked first with 50.8% of the population having degrees under their belts.

According to The New York Times, federal data supports the research done by the Lumina Foundation, and also suggests the recent growth was spurred largely by the economic recession. Hard times led many workers to go back to the classroom so they would be able to find better jobs.

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