Increase in California adults obtaining degrees revealed by data

There has been an increase in the number of adults in the United States who are obtaining degrees or other credentials after high school. However, this progress is not happening quickly enough to meet the goal set by the Lumina Foundation in 2008. The foundation aimed to have 60% of adults in the country earn a degree or other credentials beyond high school by 2025, but it is unlikely to be achieved in time.

According to the most recent data released by the foundation, 54% of individuals aged 25 to 64 hold college degrees, certificates, or industry-recognized certifications, which is a nearly 16 percentage point increase since 2009. The increase is partly due to the inclusion of short-term credentials in the measurement, but a significant portion is attributed to the rise in the attainment of bachelor and associate degrees.

Ted Mitchell, president of the American Council on Education, emphasized the importance of higher education and its impact. He stated, “We hear so often that higher education is in decline. We hear so often that students don’t need to go to college…It shows college matters.”

The key action needed to reach the 60% goal is to improve graduation rates. It is essential to focus on individuals who have some college experience but have not obtained a degree. There are approximately 40 million people in the country with some college and no degree. The goal is to ensure that these individuals do not feel like they were promised something that was not fulfilled.

In terms of state rankings, California is slightly above the national average, with 55% of adults holding degrees or certificates. Nevada has the lowest percentage at nearly 43%, while Washington, D.C. has the highest at about 75%.

Data also shows that there has been an increase in the number of adults with degrees or certificates in the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and 42 states. The percentage of adults aged 25 to 34 with degrees has risen from less than 38% in 2009 to about 56% in 2022. This increase is largely due to the Latino population, with their degree attainment rising from about 19% in 2009 to approximately 34% according to the most recent data.

Despite the progress, there are still significant gaps in degree attainment between different racial groups. According to the data, white and Asian Americans have higher degree attainment percentages, while Black and Hispanic Americans have lower percentages. Approximately 30% of Hispanic Americans, 36% of Black Americans, and 27% of American Indian or Alaska Natives have a degree. In California, the percentage of Latino Americans with degrees is even lower, at nearly 24%.

To view data by county in California, click here.

NOTE: EdSource receives funding from several foundations, including the Lumina Foundation. EdSource maintains sole editorial control over the content of its coverage.

February 1, 2024
Monica Velez