Can America Reach Its College Completion Goals?

Can America produce enough college graduates in the next decade to stay economically viable on a global scale? We're not on the right track.

Can America produce enough college graduates in the next decade to stay economically viable on a global scale? A new report from the College Board reveals we're not on the right track.

In 2009, the College Board’s Commission on Access, Admissions and Success in Higher Education set a goal: 55 percent of 25-34-year olds would earn at least an associate’s degree by 2025. But the group's annual check-in shows we’re not making enough progress year-to-year to get there. According to the College Completion Agenda 2011 Report, only 41.1 percent of 25-34-year-olds have earned an associate’s degree or higher as of this year.

While we can't expect lightning-fast change, the lack of follow-through on some of the commission's most basic recommendations is troubling. For example, the group recommended providing free universal preschool to all children from low-income families—evidence shows that kids enrolled in preschool are on the college track from day one. But according to the most recent data, only 14.6 percent of 3- and 4-year-olds are in a state-funded preschool program. And considering how budget cuts are decimating early childhood programs nationally, that number is not likely to rise any time soon.

But not all of the news is bad. The report notes some areas where small progress is being made—for example, about 2 percent more colleges have simplified their applications and admissions processes—a key factor for first-generation college students.

Even though there are still 13 years until 2025, the annual check-in is a good reminder that if we really want to change things, we have to start now. America can't afford to wait until 2020, panic when we see that we haven't cultivated an educated workforce, and then decide to implement reforms.

Photo via (cc) Flickr user daveparker

via International Monetary Fund / Flickr and Streetsblog Denver / Flickr

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