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Postsecondary Attainment Shows Slow But Steady Rise

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July 11, 2013

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Postsecondary Attainment Shows Slow But Steady Rise

A recent Lumina publication reports a slow but steady increase in U.S. postsecondary attainment, while emphasizing how far we have to go toward reaching the foundation's goal of 60 percent of Americans with postsecondary credentials, including certificates, by 2025.

In 2011, the percentage of 25- to 64-year-old Americans with a two- or four-year college degree was 38.7 percent, an increase of four-tenths of a percent from the previous year. At this rate, the nation will fall short of that 60 percent goal, known as Goal 2025.  

Lumina currently does not count postsecondary certificates as part of Goal 2025, although using data cited in a recent Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce report, the foundation estimates that an additional 5 percent of the U.S. population, on top of the 38.7 percent reported, holds a postsecondary certificate with economic value. At a launch event for the report, Lumina representatives noted that high-quality postsecondary certificates that are part of pathways to higher learning are an important part of educational attainment in the U.S., but emphasized that the data is scarce.

Lumina has developed 10 sub-metrics toward Goal 2025, including 800,000 working adults finishing their postsecondary education. The foundation also proposes improved data collection on prior learning assessment, transparent pathways and high-quality certificates. The National Center for Education Statistics' Interagency Working Group on Expanded Measures of Enrollment and Attainment is working on this latter suggestion, developing questions for federal surveys that would measure attainment of subbaccalaureate educational certificates, industry-recognized certifications and occupational licenses.

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