In 1940, only 5 percent of adults held a college degree. Now, that number is 30.4 percent.
In 1940, only 5 percent of that same age population held a college degree. That number climbed to 26.2 percent by 2001, and hit the record in March 2011, despite the skyrocketing cost of higher education. And, at a time of critical need for more workers with science, technology, and engineering skills, the data indicates that more than one-third of those degree holders have a diploma in science or engineering.
Gender disparities between degree holders are shrinking as well. Across all age groups, 30 percent of women hold a degree, compared to 31 percent of men. Among young people, women hold an edge 36 percent of women between the ages of 25 and 29 have a degree, compared to 28 percent of their male peers.
Does this mean that America is on track to reach President Obama's goal of producing 8 million more college degree holders by 2020? While there is plenty of room for improvement—particularly regarding college completion rates of minority populations—the latest numbers are a surprising step in the right direction.