U.S. Drops to 12th in Young Adults with College Degrees

The College Board, which first set the agenda to have 55 percent of America’s with a post-secondary degree by 2025, says the U.S. has fallen to 12th among developed countries in the number of 25- to 34-year-olds with an associate degree or higher.

Only 40.4 percent of young adult Americans have an associate degree or higher, compared with 55.8 percent of the same age group in Canada and 55.5 percent in both Korea and the Russian Federation.

In contrast, the percentage  of Americans 55- to 64-year-olds with an associate degree or higher ranks fourth in the world with 38.5, lagging behind only the Russian Federation at 44.5 percent, Israel at 43.5 percent and Canada, at 38.9 percent.

At a meeting yesterday on Capitol Hill, the board’s Advocacy and Policy Center released a new report that spells out the current educational deficiencies in U.S. education efforts and sets out steps to remedy the shortcomings.

“The growing education deficit is no less a threat to our nation’s long-term well-being than the current fiscal crisis. It requires the same kind of attention and action at the highest levels of our education institutions and national and state governments,” College Board President Gaston Caperton told members of Congress and educators convened by the board’s Advocacy and Policy Center.

“To improve our college completion rates, we must think ‘P–16’ and improve education from preschool through higher education.”

The new report, The College Completion Agenda, 2010 Progress Report, is packed with data and a and a 10–step agenda to increase the proportion of 25 to 34-year-old Americans who have earned an associate degree or more.

These are the board’s proposed steps:

  • Provide a program of voluntary preschool education, universally available to children from low income families. As of 2005, only 47 percent of 3- to 5-year-olds whose families are below the poverty line were enrolled in preschool programs.
  • Improve middle and high school college counseling. The average student-to-counselor ratio was 467:1 for the 2007-2008 school year, and as of 2007 only four states – Louisiana, New Hampshire, Vermont and Wyoming – were in compliance with the recommended ratio of 250:1.
  • Implement the best research-based dropout prevention programs. In 2006, 73.4 percent of public high school students who started high school as freshmen graduated, with roughly 3.3 million 16- to 24-year-olds not enrolled in high school and without a high school diploma or alternative credential.
  • Align the K-12 education system with international standards and college admission expectations. In 2009, 34.8 percent of U.S. schools offered advanced placement or International Baccalaureate courses in the four core subjects – English language arts, mathematics, science and social studies
  • Improve teacher quality and focus on recruitment and retention. As of 2007-2008, 10 percent of states require parental notification of out-of-field teachers for K-12 student and 8 percent of states have a ban or cap on the number of out-of-field teachers.
  • Clarify and simplify the admission process. In the 2008-2009 admission year, 20.4 percent of four-year schools took part in national application systems aimed to streamline the admission process.
  • Provide more need-based grant aid while simplifying the financial aid system and making it more transparent. Between 2003-2004 and 2007-2008, the average grant aid increased by 1.8 percent (or $53 per year after inflation) for low-income students at public two-year colleges, 4.4 percent ($283 per year) at public four-year colleges and 5.8 percent ($686 per year) at private four-year colleges.
  • Keep college affordable. State support for public higher education dropped by 1 percent between fiscal years 2009 and 2010, while average tuition and fees at public four-year colleges and universities increased during the same period of time.
  • Dramatically increase college completion rates. As of 2007, 56.1 percent of U.S. students entering a school with the intent of receiving a bachelor’s degree end up graduating in six years or less. In the same year, 27.8 percent of students entering an institution with the intent of receiving an associate degree end up doing so in three years or less.
  • Provide postsecondary opportunities as an essential element of adult education programs. As of 2005, 101.7 per 1,000 people aged 18-64 with less than a high school diploma enrolled in a state Adult Basic Education program.

The full report can be found here.


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