Trends in the Well-Being of America's Children and Youth, 2000. EA 1.6 College Attendance and Attainment

01/01/2000

College attendance and receipt of a bachelor’s degree increase employment opportunities and income potential. One of the National Education Goals for the year 2000, adopted by Congress, is for adult literacy and lifelong learning, with an objective of increasing the proportion of qualified students, especially minorities, who enter college, who complete at least 2 years, and who complete their degree programs.17

Table EA 1.6 presents the percentage of 25- through 29-year-old high school graduates who had completed at least some college and the percentage who had received a bachelor’s degree or higher:18

  • In 1999, 66 percent of high school graduates in this age group had completed at least some college, 10 percent had received an associate’s degree, and 32 percent had received at least a bachelor’s degree.19
  • College attendance has increased since the early 1970s, with the most rapid increases occurring during the 1990s. The percentage of high school graduates completing at least some college rose from 44 percent in 1971 to 52 percent in 1990—and then to 66 percent in 1999 (see Figure EA 1.6.A).
  • College completion, defined here as receipt of a bachelor’s degree, increased more modestly, from 22 percent of 25- to 29-year-old high school graduates in 1971 to 32 percent of this group in 1999 (see Figure EA 1.6.B).

Differences by Race and Hispanic Origin.20 In 1997, white high school graduates were far more likely (35 percent) than their black (16 percent) or Hispanic peers (18 percent) to have received a bachelor’s degree or higher. Whites were also more likely to have attended college (68 percent) than blacks or Hispanics (54 percent each) in 1997. Whites have had far higher rates of attendance and completion than blacks or Hispanics since the early 1970s, and the gap between whites and the other two racial/ethnic groups in college attendance and completion has not decreased over time (see Figures EA 1.6.A and EA 1.6.B).

 

17 National Education Goals Panel. 1997. The National Education Goals Report: Building a Nation of Learners, 1997 (Goal 6, p. xvi). Washington, D.C.: U.S. Government Printing Office.
18 Note that the measure of college attendance changed from “one or more years of college” in 1971-1991 to “some college or more” in 1992-1997. Similarly, the measure of college completion changed from “four or more years of college” in 1971-1991 to “bachelor’s degree or higher” in 1992-1997.
19 Based on analyses of the 1993 Baccalaureate and Beyond Longitudinal study, it is estimated that about 10 percent of all persons with a bachelor's degree also hold an associate’s degree. National Center for Education Statistics.
20 Estimates for whites and blacks exclude Hispanics of those races.

 

Table EA 1.6 Percentage of 25- through 29-year-old high school graduatesa in the United States who have attended some college or who have received a bachelor’s degree or higher, by race and Hispanic origin:c Selected years, 1971-1999

  1971 1975 1980 1985 1990 1991 1992 1993 1994 1995 1996 1997 1998 1999
Some college or more d 44 50 52 51 52 53 57 59 61 62 65 65 66 66
Whiteb 45 51 54 52 54 55 59 61 63 65 67 68 69 69
Blackb 31 39 42 43 44 43 45 48 50 52 56 54 57 58
Hispanicc 31 41 40 44 40 42 47 49 52 50 51 54 52 51
Bachelor’s degree or higher b 22 26 26 26 27 27 27 27 27 28 31 32 31 32
Whiteb 23 28 28 27 30 30 30 30 30 31 34 35 35 36
Blackb 12 15 15 14 16 13 14 16 16 18 17 16 18 17
Hispanicc 11 17 13 18 14 16 16 14 13 16 16 18 17 14
Associate's degree 8 9 10 10 10 9 10 10
Whiteb 8 9 10 10 10 9 10 10
Blackb 8 6 8 8 8 7 8 10
Hispanicc 7 8 9 7 8 9 9 9

a High school completion or high school graduate is defined as 12 years of school completed for 1971-1991 and high school diploma or equivalency certificate for 1992-1997. Beginning in 1992, the Current Population Survey changed the questions used to obtain educational attainment of respondents.
b Non-Hispanic .
c Persons of Hispanic origin may be of any race.
d This was measured as “one or more years of college” for 1971-1991 and as “some college or more” for 1992-1997.
e This was measured as “four or more years of college” for 1971-1991 and as “bachelor’s degree or higher” for 1992-1997.
Sources: U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics. 1998. The Condition of Education 1997, Tables 22-2 and 22-3; Associate degree data published in Federal Interagency Forum on Child and Family Statistics, 1998, Table ED6.

 

Figure EA 1.6.A Percentage of 25- through 29-year-old high school graduates a in the United States who have attended some college, by race and Hispanic origin: b Selected years, 1971-1999

a High school completion or high school graduate is defined as 12 years of school completed for 1971-1991 and high school diploma or equivalency certificate for 1992-1997. Beginning in 1992, the Current Population Survey changed the questions used to obtain the educational attainment of respondents.
b Persons of Hispanic origin may be of any race.
Source: U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, 2000.

 

Figure EA 1.6.B Percentage of 25- through 29-year-old high school graduates a in the United States who have received a bachelor’s degree, b by race and Hispanic origin: c Selected years, 1971-1999

a High school completion or high school graduate is defined as 12 years of school completed for 1971-1991 and high school diploma or equivalency certificate for 1992-1997. Beginning in 1992, the Current Population Survey changed the questions used to obtain the educational attainment of respondents.
b This was measured as “four or more years of college” for 1971-1991 and as “bachelor’s degree or higher” for 1992-1997.
c Persons of Hispanic origin may be of any race.
Source: U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, 2000.
 

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