The U.S. Census Bureau recently put out new data from the American Community Survey. The data consisted of a lot of interesting findings, but among them was the fact that the percentage of adults with college degrees has increased by 2% over the past five years. In 2009, 28% of adults were degree-holders, but as of 2014, some 30% of adults have graduated with a bachelor’s or higher.
There are roughly 3,100 counties in the United States, and about 1,000 of them reported an increase in the percentage of adults with degrees. Only 60 counties saw a decrease. According to the chief of the education branch of the U.S. Census Bureau, Kurt Bauman, these increases are not happening in any particular areas. All types of counties, from rural to urban, are seeing an educational increase.
Another interesting piece of data: more women than men have earned degrees for the first time in this five year period. It is typical that young women will acquire degrees more frequently than young men, but this is the first time it has happened across all age groups. There is, of course, also the issue that fewer male-dominated fields, such as transportation and mining, do not require four-year degrees while female-dominated fields, like teaching and nursing, do require these degrees, which could contribute to the reason for that data.
Anthony Carnevale, director of the Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce, says that “In the end, men still have greater opportunity at lower education levels.”
Also worth noting is the fact that the US still has far fewer college graduates than many of the other developed countries around the world, and prohibitive tuition costs definitely play a role. Experts think this should serve as a wake-up call. “We’re going to have to find a whole new way to do college,” says Carnevale – a way that is cheaper, more efficient, and produces more college graduates. As of right now, education is still an out-of-reach goal for a lot of Americans.
Not as many Americans hold degrees, but not for lack of trying – many begin school and drop out, and lots of others take far more than four years to complete a degree. The cost of tuition, combined with the need to earn living expenses and insufficient financial aid, could be a reason for this.
Ideally, higher education in the US will be re-structured to become more accessible in the coming years.