The United States used to lead the world in the number of 25- to 34-year-olds with college degrees. Now it ranks 12th among 36 developed nations.
“We spend a fortune recruiting freshmen but forget to recruit sophomores,” Michael McPherson, president of the Spencer Foundation, said at the meeting.
“We led the world in the 1980s, but we didn’t build from there,” he said. “If you look at people 60 and over, about 39-40 percent have college degrees, and if you look at young people, too, about 39-40 percent have college degrees. Meanwhile, other countries have passed us by.”
Canada now leads the world in educational attainment, with about 56 percent of its young adults having earned at least associate’s degrees in 2007, compared with only 40 percent of those in the United States. (The United States’ rate has since risen slightly.)
While almost 70 percent of high school graduates in the United States enroll in college within two years of graduating, only about 57 percent of students who enroll in a bachelor’s degree program graduate within six years, and fewer than 25 percent of students who begin at a community college graduate with an associate’s degree within three years.
The problem begins long before college, according to the report released Thursday.
“You can’t address college completion if you don’t do something about K-12 education,” Mr. Kirwan said.
Once a Leader, U.S. Lags in College Degrees
By TAMAR LEWIN
Published: July 23, 2010