Although the U.S. ranks near the top of the world in college degrees, it’s quickly losing ground because young adults in other countries are earning credentials at a higher rate, according to a new analysis.
But the U.S. can secure its standing and bolster the nation’s workforce by increasing the number of graduates with two-year degrees–and the jobs and the need for middle-skilled workers are there, reports the National School Board Association’s Center for Public Education.
“When it comes to attainment of four-year degrees, the U.S. surpasses many of the countries believed to be highly educated and ranks second only to Norway,” said Jim Hull, CPE’s senior policy analyst and author of the report. “We now need to focus on improving the 30 percent graduation rate at our two-year institutions, particularly given the calls for a better educated workforce.”
Hull gives a further analysis of the report, “Getting Back to the Top: An International Comparison of College Attainment,” in a commentary for CPE’s Edifier blog.
The U.S. ranks fifth in the world overall in the college attainment of all adults, but ranked 18th in the number of two-year degrees, Hull’s analysis of 41 countries found. Hull noted in a press conference that while international rankings may not seem to be important, the issue of college attainment is critically important to the health of the nation’s economy.
The U.S. has more older adults with college degrees than other countries. Meanwhile younger adults in a number of other countries are earning college degrees at much greater rates than young Americans, ages 25 to 34, Hull noted. The number of Americans with four-year degrees has remained stable over time, at about one-third of the population, while other countries now see significantly more young adults graduate with four-year degrees.
School board members and administrators can help prepare their students for post-secondary education by providing all students access to rigorous curriculum and the support they need to succeed in high-level, high school courses. They should also invest in well-trained counselors to help students with their after-graduation plans, including finding a post-secondary institution that best matches their goals, and collect data on the post-secondary progress of graduates as an indicator of the quality of the high school preparation they received, CPE reports.
Read the complete report at CPE’s website.