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Local News

PA nears 60% college degree attainment goal, but work remains


Danielle Smith, Public News Service

Pennsylvania lags only slightly behind national figures for the number of working-age adults who have earned college degrees or other professional certifications after high school.

New data from Lumina Foundation tracks degree attainment and the group’s benchmark is 60% of working-age adults should be earning some kind of post-high school degree by the year 2025. Right now, the number is over 53% in the Keystone State and just over 54% nationwide.

Courtney Brown, vice president of strategic impact and planning for Lumina Foundation, said the research showed the nation is making steady progress toward the 60% goal.

“We moved from 38.1% when we began, to 54.3%,” Brown reported. “That represents a 16 percentage point increase in just 14 years. And that’s, you know, a collective commitment and dedication to education from partners all across the country.”

Brown added 42 states along with Washington, D.C., and Puerto Rico, saw an uptick in degree attainment last year. The increase was more than 1% in 19 states, including Pennsylvania.

Brown pointed out Lumina has expanded what counts toward its post-high-school attainment goal, adding workforce certificates in 2014, and industry certifications in 2018. She noted all types of higher-ed attainment have increased.

“Some of the increase over the last 14 years — that 16 percentage points — some of that is attributed to finding a way to measure and then add high-quality short-term credentials,” Brown emphasized. “But a substantial portion — about 8.5 percentage points — is a rise in the attainment of bachelor and associate degrees.”

However, the research said more can be done to close the equity gap, in the Keystone State and across the country. The report showed more than 50% of white Pennsylvanians have college degrees, compared to more than 32% of Black residents and almost 30% of Hispanic residents.

This article originally appeared on Public News Service and is republished here under a Creative Commons license.