Despite the rise in college graduates, employers will need 23 million more college-educated workers by 2025, concludes a Lumina Foundation report based on 2010 Census data. “We are nowhere near at the pace that we need to be,” said Jamie Merisotis, Lumina’s president.
The foundation wants to increase the percentage of working-age Americans with high-quality degrees and credentials to 60% in 2025 — a goal similar to one set by President Obama in 2009. Obama said he wants the United States to reclaim its position as the world leader in the proportion of college graduates by 2020. If the current pace continues, that figure will reach just 46.5% by 2025, the Lumina report says.
More Americans are earning college credentials: 38.3% of Americans ages 25 to 64 had at least an associate’s degree in 2010, up from 38.1% in 2009 and 37.9% in 2008. For the first time, more than 30 percent of adults have earned a bachelor’s degree or more.
Turning out more college graduates won’t make us prosperous or productive, writes Peter Wood.
A nation’s economic growth certainly depends on the productivity of its people, but productivity and national prosperity have a limited relationship to higher-education attainment. Some countries with relatively low post-secondary degree attainment rates (e.g. Germany, Switzerland) have very high rates of productivity and prosperity. Some countries with high college degree attainment rates (e.g. Russia) have low productivity and less prosperity. What a nation needs to thrive economically is not necessarily a population where college degrees are commonplace, but a hard-working, ingenious, and versatile workforce.
As more people get college degrees, higher education will “have to conform itself to the abilities of a lot of students who aren’t very bright or ambitious,” Wood writes. The workforce will be flooded with graduates with dubious credentials. The college advantage will “evaporate.”