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PA Still Lags Nation in Post-H.S. College, Training

By Danielle M. Smith - Public News Service
The Tube City Almanac
February 21, 2024
Posted in: State & Region

(Source: Lumina Foundation)

Pennsylvania lags slightly behind national figures for the number of working-age adults who have earned college degrees or other professional certifications after high school.

New data from the Indianapolis-based Lumina Foundation tracks degree attainment, including professional training and university degrees. The foundation says that more than 54 percent of Americans have attained some kind of post-high school education. In Pennsylvania, the number is 53 percent.

The foundation’s research also said more can be done to close the equity gap, in the Keystone State and across the country. The report showed that although more than 50 percent of white Pennsylvanians have college degrees, the same is true of only 32 percent of Black residents and 30 percent of Hispanic residents.

Founded in August 2000, Lumina was created when a student loan provider called USA Group sold its assets to Sallie Mae. The foundation is focused on encouraging Americans to attend post-high school education at a college, university or trade school.

The group has called for 60 percent of working-age adults to earn some type of post-high school degree by the year 2025.

Courtney Brown, vice president of strategic impact and planning for Lumina Foundation, said the research showed the nation is making steady progress toward the 60 percent goal.

“We moved from 38.1 percent when we began to 54.3 percent,” Brown said. “That represents a 16-percentage point increase in just 14 years. And that’s a collective commitment and dedication to education from partners all across the country.”

Brown said 42 states, along with Washington, D.C., and Puerto Rico, saw an uptick in degree attainment last year. The increase was more than 1 percent in 19 states, including Pennsylvania.

Brown said that Lumina has expanded what counts toward its post-high-school attainment goal, adding workforce certificates in 2014, and industry certifications in 2018. She noted all types of higher-ed attainment have increased.

“Some of the increase over the last 14 years — that 16 percentage points — is attributed to finding a way to measure and then add high-quality short-term credentials,” Brown said. “But a substantial portion — about 8.5 percentage points — is a rise in the attainment of bachelor and associate degrees.”

Danielle M. Smith is a producer for Public News Service, where this story first appeared. An award-winning radio journalist/personality with more than a decade of experience in broadcast media, she is a former audio journalist with American Urban Radio Networks and Sheridan Broadcasting Networks who also hosts a weekly community affairs show “Good News” on WGBN (1360 AM/98.9 FM).

Originally published February 21, 2024.

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