The Pew Center has a new study out on educational attainment (Record Shares of Young Adults Have Finished Both High School and College). Of course, it indicates that more and more Americans are getting degrees.
It’s unfortunate that so many people consider America’s educational system broken even though everyone recognizes the fact that more and more Americans are entering and completing college. Nine in ten young Americans finished high school and one in three finish college.
I would never say that we can not to better and inequalities in the system remain. However, I think we can pause and look at how much progress we have made.
Over the last half century we have roughly doubled the percentage of young Americans finishing college. In 1971 about 17% college.
We have reversed gender bias. Only 14% of women were graduating in 1971. Today that number has exploded to 37%. Meanwhile, men have increased more slowly from 20% to 30%.
While graduation rates for Whites has doubled from 20% to 40%, the rate for Black Americans has tripled from 7% to 23%. Hispanics have also tripled going from 5% to 15%.
Challenges to higher education emerge from these trends. Fifty years ago colleges were tasked with teaching primarily the most exceptional students. Today, 63% of young Americans complete some level of college coursework. That means that we have below average students entering college. Those students will need a different level of attention and assistance and political leaders need to understand that throwing these students into a classroom may not be enough for many of them.