A Stronger Nation through Higher Education

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Lumina Foundation for Education

This report explains the Lumina Foundation for Education’s “Big Goal” – that the proportion of the population that holds a “high-quality” postsecondary degree, or its equivalent, will reach 60 percent by 2025 – and offers recommendations for changes that should be made to make that goal a reality.

The report stresses that a quality education should be defined by student “learning” outcomes, instead of based solely on the characteristics of the institution from which the degree is received. Using this as a basis for analysis, the authors examine the level of attainment in each state and the gap between current student performance and what is needed to reach the 2025 goal. In 2008, 37.9 percent of Americans between the ages of 25 and 64 held a degree from either a two-year or four-year institution. If current trends continue, the authors suggest that only 46.6 percent of Americans will hold a degree by 2025 –falling short of the goal by 13.4 percent.

The authors also make note of the learning outcome gap that exists between ethnicities, with more than half of all Asian-Americans (59.2 percent) having obtained a college degree, compared with 26.2 percent of African-Americans, 22.5 percent of Native Americans, and 18.6 percent of Hispanics, based on data collected in 2008 by the Census Bureau.

For the “Big Goal” to be realistically obtainable, colleges must add 166,000 each year to the current rate. Two strategies are crucial in order to close the attainment gap fractionally each year, the report states. Students must be given more support in order to increase their rate of degree completion, and individuals in the workforce (more than 22 percent of whom have attended some college but don’t have a degree) must be assisted in their return to school.

The report cites data that shows that up to 60 percent of all U.S. jobs will require a postsecondary education by 2018, emphasizing the timeliness and importance of increasing attainment.    Profiles of each state are included in the report.

Free, 118 pages, http://www.luminafoundation.org/publications/A_stronger_nation.pdf.