New data reveals 10 stunning facts on national attainment rates

By Meris Stansbury
April 11th, 2016


Report includes first-ever data on postsecondary certificates; breaks down most recent Census data to provide comprehensive picture of attainment.

Looking to provide evidence of “high-quality” learning within credentials among U.S. citizens, a report released today by the Lumina Foundation reveals specific data on national postsecondary attainment rates—broken down into type of certifications and degrees, geography and ethnicity.

The annual report, now in its seventh year, uses Census data to track progress in degree attainment rates on a national scale in all 50 states, trickling down to the county level. What makes this year’s report special is the first-ever inclusion of national and state-specific data estimates showing Americans’ attainment of “high-quality” postsecondary certificates.

The inclusion of this data comes at a turning point in the country’s evolution of higher education, as alternative pathways and indicators of skill move beyond the traditional four-year bachelor’s degree.

“What matter for us—and what is genuinely important in the vital effort to meet the nation’s need for talent—isn’t so much the credential itself,” writes Jamie Merisotis, president and CEO of the Lumina Foundation. “What matters is the learning inherent in that credential: the knowledge, skills and abilities a student has developed while earning it.”

It’s a sentiment increasingly mirrored across the country as well. According to data from a 2015 Gallup-Lumina Foundation Study of the American Public’s Opinion on Higher Education [full report to be released this week], 54 percent of U.S. adults surveyed believe that “students working to earn a certificate to use in the workforce” describes college education—up significantly from 40 percent just a year ago.

But is the national support for, and growth of certificate-based attainment enough to reach Lumina’s Goal 2025 that calls for 60 percent of Americans to hold a degree, certificate or other high-quality postsecondary credential by the year 2025?

(Next page: 10 facts from the attainment rates report)

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