15 higher education revelations from NCES

By Meris Stansbury
June 1st, 2016


New Condition of Education report provides illuminating snapshot of current postsecondary ed enrollment, attainment, diversity and much more.

It’s nice when trending assumptions get fact-checked. Using a more formal description, the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) released its “Condition of Education” report for 2016, required by Congress to measure key indicators on important topics and trends in U.S. education.

These indicators focus on population characteristics, such as educational attainment and economic outcomes; participation in education at all levels; and several contextual aspects of education, including international comparisons, at both the elementary and secondary education level and the postsecondary education level. The three Spotlight indicators for the 2016 report provide a more in-depth look at some of the data. Supplemental indicators, which help to provide a fuller picture of the state of American education, are available online.

Some indicators, such as attainment and annual earning based on completion levels haven’t changed much between the years, yet some indicators such as enrollment rates for different type of institutions, as well as college participation rates among some ethnicities show interesting developments.

Revelations from NCES on Postsecondary Ed


1. There are a lot of differences in postsecondary enrollment programs among recent high school completers.

In fall 2013, among fall 2009 ninth-graders who had completed high school, three-quarters were enrolled at postsecondary institutions: some 14 percent were taking postsecondary classes only and were not enrolled in a degree program, 3 percent were enrolled in occupational certificate programs, 25 percent were enrolled in associate’s degree programs, and 32 percent were enrolled in bachelor’s degree programs. The remaining 25 percent were not enrolled in a postsecondary institution at all.

2. Employment outcomes vary by ethnicity/sex.

While 86 percent of all young adults ages 25-34 with a bachelor’s or higher degree were employed in 2014, differences in employment outcomes were observed by sex and race/ethnicity. For example, female full-time, year-round workers earned less than their male colleagues in nearly all of the occupation groups examined and for every employment sector (e.g., private for-profit, private nonprofit, government). Black young adults who worked full time, year round also earned less than their white peers in a majority of the occupations analyzed.

3. We’re ahead of our international counterparts, but they’re moving faster.

The OECD average percentage of the adult population with a postsecondary degree increased by 11 percentage points between 2001 and 2014, from 22 to 33 percent. During the same period, the percentage of U.S. adults with a postsecondary degree increased by 7 percentage points, from 37 to 44 percent.

4. Attainment rates have increased, but the gap is growing.

In 2015, some 36 percent of 25- to 29-year-olds had attained a bachelor’s or higher degree. The percentage of white 25- to 29-year-olds who had attained this level of education increased from 1995 to 2015, as the size of the white-black gap in the attainment of a bachelor’s or higher degree widened from 13 to 22 percentage points and the size of the white-hispanic gap widened from 20 to 27 percentage points.

5. Demand for faculty is growing.

From fall 1993 to fall 2013, the number of full-time faculty at degree-granting postsecondary institutions increased by 45 percent, while the number of part-time faculty increased by 104 percent. As a result of the faster increase in the number of part-time faculty, the percentage of all faculty who were part time increased from 40 to 49 percent during this period.

(Next page: More NCES data)

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