Since 2008 millions of adults have earned college degrees, but still less than half of the nation’s labor force has completed a postsecondary education.
Between 2008 and 2014, the share of people aged 25 to 64 who possess either an associate’s or bachelor’s degree rose from 37.9 percent to 40.4 percent, according to new data released by the Lumina Foundation. (The Lumina Foundation is a financial supporter of the Education Writers Association, which produced this story in partnership with The Atlantic.) The influential nonprofit has also for the first time calculated the number of Americans who have earned a certificate in a postsecondary setting, finding that 4.9 percent of adult workers have completed a program in short-term studies such as auto mechanics, computer services, and cosmetology.
Despite the boost from the new certificates data, the pace of degree completion in the United States isn’t fast enough to reach the organization’s goal of seeing 60 percent of Americans holding either a certificate, or an associate’s or bachelor’s degree by 2025, according to Lumina’s president Jamie Merisotis. “In fact, based on our projections roughly 10.9 million additional credentials—degrees, certificates, or other high-quality credentials—are needed to meet the goal. And those need to come from those people who represent our future, particularly low-income Americans, underemployed adults, first-generation students, and students of color,” Merisotis said during a call with reporters.
If the current pace of degree attainment holds, 53.9 percent of the nation’s workforce will hold a degree or certificate in 2025—roughly six percentage points short of Lumina’s goal.
“Global competition has soared. Some 2 million jobs are unfilled in this country, lacking qualified applicants. Three-fourths of American CEOs cite major problems in finding qualified people to fill these jobs. And two-thirds of all jobs being created today require some form of post-high-school education or training, wrote Merisotis in the report.