Maybe We'll Meet That 2020 Goal: Graduation Rates Are at Record Highs

Posted by Liz Dwyer

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There's been plenty of hand wringing over whether our education system's on track to reach President Obama's goal of producing 8 million more college degree holders by 2020. According to the Pew Research Center's latest analysis of 2000-2012 U.S. Census data for young adults, there's reason to think we might get there. The number of 25 to 29-year-olds graduating from high school, attending college, and actually completing their degrees are all at record highs.

Indeed, 90 percent have at least finished high school, 63 percent have completed at least some college and 33 percent have graduated from college. What's also encouraging is that the numbers are up across racial and ethnic lines. In 2011 39 percent of white students, 20 percent of black students, and 13 percent of Hispanic students had completed at least a bachelor's degree. In 2012, that was up to 40 percent, 23 percent, and 15 percent respectively.

What's behind the bump? During a tough economy folks are more likely to stay in school simply because there are too few job opportunities available. The report also credits "changing public attitudes about the importance of going to college" in order "to succeed in an increasingly knowledge-based labor market. Put simply, nearly 80 percent of Americans believe that a degree is essential to getting ahead in life.

Graduation day photo via Shutterstock