They may live with their parents and they may owe thousands of dollars in student loans, but a larger share of young adults can boast a bachelor’s degree than ever before, says a report out Monday.
A record 33% of the nation’s 25- to 29-year-olds have earned at least a four-year degree, up from 28% in 2001 and 2006 and 17% in 1971, says the report by the non-profit Pew Research Center. It’s based on recently released U.S. Census data.
College completion rates for young adults ages 25-29 increased across key demographic groups.
While President Obama has made college completion a hallmark of his higher education agenda, the report’s authors attribute much of the increase to the struggling economy and decline in job opportunities in recent years. They also note that other countries have made similar or greater gains in college-completion rates.
Even so, the report calls the gains a positive sign for the U.S. workforce and economy.
“The Great Recession and its aftermath had many ill effects, but this is probably the silver lining,” co-author Richard Fry says. “Going forward, the nation’s young adults (face) an array of difficulties, but (education is) one thing they have going for them.”
College completion rates for young adults ages 25-29 increased across key demographic groups:
Gender: A larger share of women (37%) completed college than men (30%), but men surpassed a 1976 peak of 28%.
Race and ethnicity: Among whites, 40% had completed at least a bachelor’s degree in 2012, up from 39% in 2011. Attainment among blacks reached 23%, up from 20% in 2011. Among Hispanics, attainment rose to 15%, up from 13% in 2011.
Nationality: Among native-born young adults, a record 35% had earned at least a bachelor’s degree, up from 34% in
2011. Among immigrants, a record 28% have at least finished a bachelor’s degree in 2012, eclipsing the previous high of 27% in 2009.
The findings underscore results of several public opinion polls suggesting that most Americans increasingly view higher education as necessary. A 2009 Pew survey found that 73% of adults agreed that a college education is necessary to get ahead in life, up from 49% in 1978, when CBS News and The New York Times asked the same question.
More than half (55%) of respondents to a 2009 survey by the non-profit Public Agenda Foundation said college is necessary to be successful in today’s work world, up from 31% in 1999.
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