Challenges and Opportunities in Achieving the National Postsecondary Degree Attainment Goals
Nettles, Michael T.
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ETS Research Report, ETS Policy Information Center Report
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Racial and Ethnic Groups,
In 2009, at the end of the 12-month Great Recession in the United States, the U.S. government established a college degree attainment goal for 60% of 25- to 34-year-olds to earn an associate’s or bachelor’s degree by the year 2020. In the same year, Lumina Foundation set a similar goal for 60% of 25- to 64-years-olds to earn a high-quality certificate, associate’s degree, or bachelor’s degree by the year 2025. Both the U.S. government’s and Lumina Foundation’s goals intend to place the United States in a leadership position in the global massification of postsecondary education that has evolved over the past few decades and to address the growing labor market demands for postsecondary education and training. This report provides a view of current progress and forecasts of the nation’s long-term progress toward achieving the goals. The analyses in this report represent college degree attainment performance of the U.S. population by race/ethnicity and gender and project through 2060. The projections reveal that neither goal is expected to be reached by target dates for the targeted adult populations, but the associate’s and bachelor’s degree attainment rates of the Asian American population are already beyond the 60% target and the White population, overall, is approaching at a pace to arrive a few years beyond the target year 2020 established by the U.S. government and 2025 set by Lumina Foundation. The projections for the African American, American Indian/Alaska Native, and Hispanic populations are not promising. Unless aggressive actions are taken to address the inequalities in each level and type of degree, and especially bachelor’s and higher degrees, not only will the three underserved population groups (African American, American Indian/AlaskaNative, andHispanic) fail to reach the goals in the foreseeable future, but also the progress that they make could be overrepresented by lower status degrees and certificates and in turn lower status occupations. Each of these three underrepresented population groups may require targeted and tailored initiatives to make substantive progress toward a larger share being college and career ready and ultimately persisting toward and attaining college degrees. The report includes data and analyses that could be useful in designing interventions.
This report is part of the "Elevating Student Achievement Through College Series".