The Census Bureau recently released data saying that for the first time, more than 30 percent of Americans have at least a bachelor’s degree. In 1947 only 5 percent of adult Americans had a bachelor’s degree while in 1997 less than 25 percent held the degree. People begin to realize that the degree is needed to reach and/or stay in the middle class. And college needs students.

Also, according to the Census Bureau, there is a growing racial gap between the haves and have nots. With the growing cost of higher education, it is more difficult to have the means (money) to attend college. The number of college degrees also varies between men and women.

In 2009, 685000 bachelor’s degrees were earned by male students and 916000 by female students. Still there are certain fields (e.g. Computer Science) where the number of female students is very scarce. According to race/ethnicity 66.4% were degrees earned by White non-Hispanic students, 12.9% by Black, non-Hispanic students, 12.4% by Hispanic students, 5.2% by Asian or Pacific Islander students, 1.1% by American Indian/Alaska Native students, and 1.9% by nonresident alien students. Compared to the year 2000, the percentage of bachelor’s degrees earned by White non-Hispanic students has decreased from 75.1%, but it is still overwhelming compared to the other percentages.

Another interesting data shows that the percentage of advanced degrees (Master’s and Doctoral degrees) earned by foreign students is second after the ones earned by White non-Hispanic
(which is still the highest) and in particular close to one third of the Doctoral degrees earned in US universities belong to foreign students.

What all this data means? While it is increasingly difficult to pay for college, more bachelor’s degrees have been earned recently. Hopefully the universities will begin to realize that lowering the tuition costs is beneficial both for the higher education institutions and for their prospective students.

On the other hand, it should not be necessary for every talented and ambitious person to attend college in order to succeed in life. I recently found out about the Thiel Foundation that encourages teenagers to start a project by their own, under the guidance of their Sillicon Valley mentoring network. Thus the young entrepreneurs will learn by themselves to do research and start a company.

Filed under: College needs

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