Fewer Young People Going to College: The United States Falls Behind

Aug 10, 2011

A progress report released by the College Board shows the U.S. falling behind many other countries when it comes to the amount of younger citizens earning college degrees. Now the goal has been set to increase that number over the next 14 years.

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By Jessica Lyons

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Rankings Among Developed Countries

In 2007, out of 36 developed countries, the United States was ranked 12th when it came to the amount of Americans 25-34 who had an associate's degree or higher (40.4%). Canada came in first with 55.8% percent of its citizens that age holding a college degree while Brazil came in last with only ten percent.

The U.S. fared better in the rankings when it came to the amount of people between 55 and 64 years old who had degrees. With 38.5% of this age group holding degrees, the U.S. was able to get fourth place. The Russian Federation was in first place with 44.5%, while having only 7.4% put Portugal in last place.

Percentages Rising But Not High Enough

Although the U.S. might not be ranked as high as it would prefer, rankings have been on the rise. In 2000, the amount of Americans between 25 and 34 with a degree was 38.1%. However, the Commission on Access, Admissions and Success in Higher Education has set the goal of increasing this amount to 55% by 2025.

There are a couple of reasons why increasing this percentage is seen as important. The College Board's 'The College Competition Agenda 2010 Progress Report' notes that, in order to have a country with a strong economy and good social health, it is important to have academically successful individuals. Additionally, a higher amount of younger Americans with degrees are needed in order to replace retiring members of the workforce who are better educated.

How to Increase the Numbers

The progress report released by the College Board details ten recommendations for how to increase the amount of 25 to 34-year-olds with college degrees. The recommendations include having universal voluntary preschool, focusing on teacher quality and retention, improving the college counseling offered at middle and high schools and using programs that have been found to be the best at preventing students from dropping out. It also suggested the country 'align the K-12 education system with international standards and college admissions expectations.'

At the higher education level, the report suggests that institutions create an admissions process that is clear and simple, as well as improving the financial aid process with more transparency and an increase in need-based grants. Making sure college is kept affordable is also recommended.

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