Data released by the Census Bureau yesterday shows that 30 percent of Americans aged 25 and over held a Bachelor’s degree or more in 2011, an unprecedented level of higher education attainment. The percentage of Bachelor’s degree holders has increased steadily from less than 25 percent in 1998. While this is encouraging news, some warn that three problems remain: racial and gender inequality, highly differentiated earnings based on choice of major, and persistently low attainment levels in comparison to the rest of the world.
Though all racial and ethnic minorities have increased their share of Bachelor’s degrees earned, the level of educational attainment is highly stratified by race. 50 percent of Asian Americans, 34 percent of white people 20 percent of African Americans and 14 percent of Hispanic Americans 25 years and older held Bachelor’s degrees in 2011. Hispanic Americans have, however, increased their degree attainment by 80 percent since 2001. While women have overtaken men in the number of Bachelor’s degrees earned, they still lag behind in the number of doctorate degrees attained: 1.9 million for men versus 1.2 million for women. Encouragingly, the number of women attaining doctorate degrees has increased by 90 percent over the last ten years.
Some caution that majors matter: some studies show that a worker with an associate’s degree in engineering will make an average of $4,257 per month while workers with bachelor’s degrees in the liberal arts or education will make $4,000 and $3,417, respectively. They argue that higher amounts of bachelor’s degrees will not be very useful unless they translate into higher earnings for workers in the long run.
Finally, despite an increase in higher education attainment, the United States is nowhere close to being the world leader in educational achievement: Canada, Japan and South Korea occupy those positions. According to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development the US is now ranked 16th internationally in terms of degrees earned, down from 12th in 2009.
Despite an encouraging increase in educational attainment in 2011, there is still more work to be done to ensure America’s higher education system reaches more students. To read more about the Census Bureau’s findings, check out Inside Higher Ed, The Washington Post, the Census Bureau’s press release or the original data.
A new report put out by the National Science Foundation examines math and science education at the elementary, secondary and post-secondary level. In general, the news is sobering: elementary and secondary proficiency in science and math is languishing below 40 percent nationwide. Chapter 8 of the report focuses on state indicators, featuring state-by-state breakdowns of science and math education. Important indicators include the number of Bachelor’s degrees conferred, the proportion of degrees in science and engineering (S&E) fields, state expenditures on higher education, and the prevalence of S&E jobs in the workforce. Interesting findings include:
- In 2009, 1.6 million bachelor’s degrees were conferred in the United States, up 29 percent since 2000. Of these degrees, more than 501,000 were in S&E fields. In Washington State, 32.9 percent of degrees conferred were S&E degrees.
- During 2010, the annual sticker price for a public 4-year education was $15,014, which represents a 43 percent increase since 2000 (after adjusting for inflation). This does not represent net price, since this number does not include financial aid.
- In 2009, undergraduate education at a state institution consumed 35.7 percent of a Washington resident’s disposable income. Note that this number does not account for the 20 percent tuition hike in 2010.
- State funding for major public research universities per student enrolled in 2000 was $10,107, which dropped to $8,815 in 2009.
- In Washington, 32.5 percent of 25-44 year olds hold a bachelor’s degree.
- 5.83 percent of Washington’s residents in 2009 were employed in S&E fields, up from 5.16 percent in 2000.
- Washington has one of the highest rates of patents awarded per worker in S&E occupations in the US—28.2 patents per 1000 S&E workers.
The report indicates that research is flourishing and that Washington is increasingly awarding more degrees in S&E fields, but also that state funding for higher education and affordability have decreased dramatically. We will explore this report more in future posts. To read more about the report, check out the Higher Ed Chronicle post or read the full report.
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As we continue to experience a very slow recovery from a deep recession, the ideas of long-time critics of modern, inclusive American higher education who question the value of college for many have gained traction and blossomed into widespread public speculation about whether undergraduate education might be the next economic bubble to threaten the US economy. We explore this topic in the latest OPB brief and hold that, in the context of data, the ‘bubble’ metaphor, though effective at capturing public attention in an economic climate characterized by fear and uncertainty, is ultimately inaccurate, misleading, and harmful.
We would love to hear your feedback on this topic!
Georgetown University’s Center on Education and the Workforce released a report that investigates the importance of American science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) positions in the US economy and the perceived shortage of qualified STEM workers to fill them. The report finds that, contrary to popular belief, America already has enough students studying STEM related fields to potentially satiate the demand for STEM workers in the economy without seeking talent from abroad. However, they hold that a process they label ‘diversion’ redirects many students majoring in STEM fields toward employment in non-STEM areas because their professional interests and values do not correspond with traditional STEM jobs. The Center estimates that 43 percent of students that graduate with STEM majors immediately choose non-STEM jobs. It also finds that many high school students capable of entering STEM majors, as measured by their math SAT scores, choose not to because of their preferences or values.
The Center also provided some interesting statistics on the present and future of STEM professions, including:
- Wages in STEM fields are, on average, higher than wages in other fields (no matter what level of educational attainment), though healthcare and professional and managerial occupations still have higher wages
- Women and minorities are still underrepresented in STEM jobs, with women constituting only 23 percent of STEM workers. Women and minorities also make less than Caucasian men in STEM positions, though the wage gap is smaller than for other occupations.
- STEM jobs will grow to represent 5 percent of the labor market in 2018.
- Two thirds of STEM jobs will require a Bachelor’s degree or higher by 2018.
To read more about this report, check out the Executive Summary or the full report. Also note Inside Higher Ed’s discussion of the report and our previous blog posts on Georgetown Center reports:
The US Department of Education’s Stats in Brief from October 2011 entitled “Borrowing at the Maximum” investigates the percentage and demographics of students who take out federal subsidized and unsubsidized Stafford loans, and how this has changed over time. The report also seeks to differentiate between those who take out the program maximum loan amount and those who take out their personal maximum amount (adjusted for their financial need and the cost of their education). Some interesting findings include:
- the proportion of borrowers has increased significantly over time, from 27 percent of students receiving federal Stafford loans averaging $7,200 (inflation adjusted) in 1989/90, to 46 percent borrowing an average of $10,300 by 2007/08.
- 43 percent of those borrowing in 2007-08 took out the program maximum Stafford loan amount, while 60 percent took out their personal maximum amount (which can equal the maximum amount for some).
- 30 percent of those taking out Stafford loans also took out private loans, whereas only six percent of students not taking out federal loans did. Furthermore, 16-18 percent of the parents of those students borrowing through the Stafford program also took out Parents PLUS loans.
- Students taking out Stafford loans to help finance their education were less likely to have full-time jobs.
- 73 percent of students who took out Stafford loans also received grants.
To read more about the findings or methodology of this report, check out the full report here.
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The Times Higher Education/Thomson Reuters World University Rankings for 2011-12 were released today and the University of Washington ranked 25th, one of only five public US institutions to make the top 25 (UC Berkeley was the highest ranking US public at 10).
US News and World Report recently ranked the UW 42nd among all national universities in the US, while the Academic Ranking of World Universities ranked the UW at 16.
These rankings help to validate the world class teaching, research and service that take place here at the UW every day. However, it is good to cast a critical eye on the business of ranking universities in general, and this column published by Inside Higher Education does a great job of summarizing some of the questions we should always ask of such ranking endeavors.
The National Center for Education Statistics recently released a report entitled Projections of Education Statistics to 2019. The Center seeks to predict future trends in enrollment, completion, and diversity in elementary, secondary, and post-secondary institutions. The Center uses census data and economic forecasts to make its projections; however, such predictions are complicated to produce and always subject to unforeseen political, demographic and economic changes. Overall, the Center predicts growth in enrollment and degree completion for all levels of education, although it does not expect President Obama’s completion goals for higher education in 2020 to be met.
Major findings include:
- Total elementary and secondary school enrollment is projected to increase 6 percent by 2019, with especially large increases in the number of Hispanic, Asian, and Native American students. Western states are projected to drive much of this demographic change with a 12 percent increase in these enrollments.
- The total number of high school graduates nationally is expected to increase by 1 percent by 2019. In the West, however, the number of grads is expected to rise 9 percent.
- Enrollment in post-secondary programs is projected to increase 17 percent, to 22.4 million by 2019. Minorities again have the highest rates of increase in enrollment, with the number of Hispanic students in particular expected to increase by 45 percent.
- Women are projected to have larger growth in post-secondary enrollment between now and 2019 (21 percent) than men (12 percent).
- The number of degrees awarded is expected to increase alongside enrollment, associate’s degrees up 30 percent, bachelor’s degrees up 23 percent, master’s degrees up 34 percent, doctoral degrees 54 percent, and professional degrees 34 percent.
For more information, graphical representation of these data, and details on methodology, check out the full report. To read about some of the reactions to these data and potential limitations of the study, read Inside Higher Ed’s blog post on this topic
The controversial US News and World Report University Rankings have been released for 2012 and are freely available online for a limited period of time. The University of Washington slipped one spot to 42nd among National Universities in the US. The UW, however, comes in at the 10th best public institution in the nation.
Although the US News rankings have long been dominated by endowment-rich private institutions, it is notable that no public institution makes the top 20 anymore. A recent Washington Post article reported that, over the past 20 years, the five highest ranked public institutions have each dropped seven or more spots in the rankings.
In previous posts we have laid out the massive resource gap between public and private institutions that has widened over several decades and is reflected in these rankings:
Across the US, deep cuts in state funding for public higher education have accelerated this trend dramatically over the past three years. In response, the Seattle Times Company and several partners have formed to create the Greater Good Campaign to highlight the risks this trend poses to public higher education in Washington State and to the future of Washingtonians.
The National Association of State Student Grant and Aid Programs (NASSGAP) has published their Annual Survey Report on State-Sponsored Student Financial Aid.
The new report, based on 2009-10 survey data, shows that while state support for institutions has fallen rapidly for several years, many states have increased their commitment to students via financial aid. On average, state spending on financial aid increased 3.8 percent between 2008-09 and 2009-10. For many states, increases in financial aid were necessary to help maintain student access as steep budget cuts for institutions necessitated significant increases in tuition.
Note that the survey does not contextualize increases in spending on financial aid with tuition increases, nor does it specifically address changes in financial need for students during the Great Recession. Inside Higher Ed addresses some of these issues in their report on the survey.
The survey also shows that while most state spending on financial aid continues to be in the form of need-based grants ($8.9 of $10.8 billion was spent in the form of grants), state spending on merit-based or mixed merit and need based financial aid programs continues to increase. The survey shows that 47 percent of all state aid to undergraduates is need-based, while 18 percent is merit-based, and 35 percent is tied to programs with both need and merit-based components.
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CUPA-HR salary survey data, analyzed by Inside Higher Education, shows that, similar to faculty members, median pay for senior and mid-level administrators at public institutions of higher education was flat in 2010.
At private institutions, members of all three categories showed modest gains of between 1 and 2 percent, contributing to a growing gap between pay at public and private institutions.
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