30% of U.S. adults have bachelor’s degree

More than 30 percent of U.S. adults hold bachelor’s degrees, the highest level ever, reports the Census Bureau. Women are on the brink of surpassing men in educational attainment.

As of last March, 30.4 percent of people over age 25 in the United States held at least a bachelor’s degree, and 10.9 percent held a graduate degree, up from 26.2 percent and 8.7 percent 10 years earlier.

Asian-Americans are the most educated: 50.3 percent  have at least a bachelor’s degree and 19.5 percent hold a graduate degree. By contrast, 34 percent of whites, 19.9 percent of blacks and 14.1 percent of Hispanics hold a bachelor’s degree or more.

President Obama wants 55 percent of Americans to earn a college degree.

Super-sizing the number of graduates, which would require doubling enrollment, won’t make us more prosperous, argues Peter Wood. There’s no “straightforward correlation between the percent of the population holding college degrees and the nation’s prosperity or its international competitiveness.”

It’s not the education, stupid

A large “creative class” determines economic prosperity, not merely the number of people with college degrees, writes Richard Florida in The Atlantic.

While most economists measure human capital by levels of educational attainment, my colleagues and I utilize a different measure: the share of a country’s workforce in high-skill, high wage Creative Class jobs spanning the fields of science, technology, and engineering; business, management and finance; design and architecture; arts, culture, entertainment, and media; law, healthcare, and education. A series of studies have found that these occupations, rather than college degrees, provide a more accurate measure of the key skills that comprise human capital. . . . In the U.S., for example, nearly three-quarters of adults with college degrees are members of the Creative Class, but less than 60 percent of the members of the Creative Class have college degrees.

Singapore ranks first in the world on this measure with 47.3 percent of the population in the creative class, followed by the Netherlands, Switzerland, Australia, Sweden, Belgium, Denmark, Finland, Norway and Germany. The United States ranks 27th in the world, just behind Slovakia.

Russia ranks 20th (38.6 percent), ahead of the U.S. Russia? Really? China lags far behind at 75th (7.4 percent).

The U.S. ranks 7th on the scale for technology and innovation, according to Florida.

Here’s more on the creative class.

Education vs. poverty

“In the 21st century, the best anti-poverty program around is a first-class education,” said President Obama in his State of the Union speech.

Is that really true?  Flypaper’s Mike Petrilli thinks preparing young people to be “military ready” might fight poverty better than educating everyone for college.

I agree with Obama — if it’s really education and not just additional years of schooling.  Unfortunately, his proposed funding increases don’t guarantee more “first-class education.”

“The question is not whether to invest in education, but how, writes Russ Whitehurst, director of the Brown Center on Education Policy at the Brookings Institution, in an e-mail. Making Race To The Top an annual billion-dollar competition gives extraordinary power to the Education secretary, Whitehurst writes.

I’m all for using carrots instead of sticks to spur reform, but we ought to get at least a hint of what we’re going to get from the billions invested in Race to the Top 1.0 before we make it permanent.  

. . .   The reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Act, now overdue, rather than the 2011 budget bill, is the place to decide whether an annual Race to the Top competition is worthwhile and what reform policies it should impose on states and school districts.

Obama has the right priorities, writes Paul Peterson on Ed Next, citing a new study on the huge economic benefits if we educated U.S. children to Finnish levels. “If” is the operative word.