Graduation Rates Across the U.S. and UCLA
Percent of young adults who graduated nationally in 2000
Percent of young adults who graduated nationally in 2012
Percent graduation rate of 1985 fall class at UCLA
Percent graduation rate of 2002 fall class at UCLA
SOURCE: Pew Research Center, UCLA Office of Analysis and Information Management
Record rates of young Americans are receiving an education through high schools and colleges, according to a recent report from the Pew Research Center.
The Pew Research Center, a nonpartisan think tank that provides data on issues that affect America, reported that the percentage of young adults who have had some college education has risen 6 percent in the last five years.
The percentage of young adults, which includes 25- to 29-year-olds, that graduated with at least a bachelor’s degree increased from 29 percent in 2000 to 33 percent this year, said the study.
The trend holds true at UCLA as well.
Data from the UCLA Office of Analysis and Information Management showed a general rise in graduation rates. For the students entering UCLA in fall of 1985, 77 percent graduated. The number has increased to more than 90 percent for the fall class of 2002, according to the most recently analyzed set of data.
The increases in education rates took place alongside the changing ethnic backdrop of the United States, according to the report.
Experts generally thought recent increases in non-white Americans would bring graduation rates down, especially in the young adult population, because non-whites have historically had lower rates of educational attainment, said Richard Fry, a senior economist at the Pew Research Center and co-author of the study.
The study, however, showed the opposite effect, depicting an almost across-the-board rise in educational attainment, especially from minorities, Fry said.
Recent immigrants have also brought the rates of educational attainment up among young adults, according to the report.
Fry said that more than 40 percent of new immigrants have at least a bachelor’s degree, which is higher than the national average.
The report attributed some of the rise in college attendance to the recession in the late 2000s. More young adults are going to school because of the difficulty of trying to get a job in the U.S. job market, according to the study.
Gary Orfield, a professor at the UCLA Graduate School of Education and Information Studies, said he acknowledges these changes but does not think the recession has had a large effect on UCLA.
“Where the really big effect of the recession is at junior colleges and relatively (easy to enter) four-year colleges,” Orfield said. “Selective colleges are in a different category altogether.”
Still, as more college-educated individuals in the U.S. enter the workforce, Fry said the need for their skills has increased at the same time.
In addition to information about Americans’ educational background, the report surveyed the changing perception of a college degree.
In 2010, 75 percent of adults said a college education is “very important” compared to only 36 percent in 1978, according to the survey.
Although the report showed gains in educational attainment, it also raised some concerns regarding the quality of the American higher educational system.
“The caution I’d like to raise is that this report focuses on the basic metric of education of young American adults … having said that there are concerns among experts and the public on the quality of the education,” Fry said.
In a Pew Research Center survey of college presidents nationwide, which was quoted in the study, less than one-fifth said they feel the U.S. higher education system is currently the best in the world.
Joy Diwa, a third-year English student, said she agreed with the increasing importance of a college education but feels that its value is more than just the college diploma.
“The value of your education depends on how much you value it,” Diwa said.