America Loses Ground in College Access, Participation, Study Finds

America Loses Ground in College Access, Participation, Study FindsWASHINGTON
America has fallen alarmingly behind other industrialized countries in access to and participation in college, which encompasses most education and training beyond high school, according to a recent study.
 “Closing the College Participation Gap,” released last month by the Education Commission of the States (ECS), paints a portrait of who is — and is not — participating in postsecondary education, as well as who is likely to be most at risk for losing access to such education in the future.
“According to the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development’s (OECD) most recent figures, the United States has fallen from first to 13th among developed nations in college participation leading to a bachelor’s degree in the last decade,” says Sandra Ruppert, ECS program director. “Stagnant levels of postsecondary participation and attainment keep the U.S. in a holding pattern while other nations soar ahead. That is unacceptable to those who understand that education is the key to both economic health, and to personal growth and development for all our citizens.”
The study’s key findings include:
• The 13 percent increase in traditional college-age enrollments projected for the next decade has captured national attention, but the less-noticed story is that half the states likely will see either little or no growth or an actual decline in their numbers. For example, by 2015, California’s enrollments of 18- to 24-year-olds are expected to increase 41 percent, while West Virginia’s are projected to decline by 11 percent.
•  Adults age 25 and older now account for nearly half of the more than 17 million students enrolled in U.S. colleges. Changing work-force needs and economic conditions are projected to drive up demand for college access among adults, which is currently projected to increase 13 percent by 2015.
• If the nation were to match the participation rate of the top-performing states, the United States could boost enrollments by an additional 8 million students by 2015. It means millions more Americans who are not projected currently to benefit from a college education would be able to acquire the education and training needed to enjoy more prosperous lives.
The study also reveals that at a time when Hispanics and Latinos are the fastest-growing population in America, and thus a key factor in work force and other economic issues, the Hispanic population in almost every state may be the most at risk in gaining access to and participating in college. The study, which draws mainly from U.S. Census 2000 data, is part of a multi-year initiative funded by the W.K. Kellogg Foundation.
For more information visit the ECS Web site at <www.ecs.org>.



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