For the first time in the history of the Republic, 90% of all students are graduating from high school and getting their diplomas. This new report released by the U.S. Census Bureau is quite a contrast from previous studies.
A demographer with the Social, Economic and Housing Statistics division, Kurt Bauman said, “That means out of the 217 million people age 25 and older, 194 million have a high school diploma or higher.” It also means the high school drop out rate decreased from 16% to 10% between the years 2000 and 2017.
But where the real gains have been made are with minority populations in the U.S. For instance, in 2014-15 approximately 75% of blacks graduated from high school according to the National Center for Education Statistics. Now 87% are getting their diplomas– that’s a 9% increase.
The Hispanic community has made even more significant strides – although statistics regarding Hispanics tend to vary from agency to agency, this study just released by the Census Bureau shows the graduation rate for Hispanics has gone up a whopping 13% from 57% to a 71%.
Meanwhile higher education is also up from 26% in 2000 to about 34% in 2017 — a 9% increase. Interestingly, women have edged out men by 1% in terms of getting a bachelor’s degree. And who would you guess is the most likely demographic to attain a BA? If you said Asians you would be right. Fifty-five percent of the Asian population in America obtain a bachelor’s degree.
From Whence We Came
The United States has long been a leader in the area of education. According to a Harvard Study by Claudia Goldin:
“Secondary-school enrollment and graduation rates increased spectacularly in much of the United States from 1910 to 1940; the advance was particularly rapid from 1920 to 1935 in the nonsouthern states. This increase was uniquely American; no other nation underwent an equivalent change for several decades.”
Still, less than half the U.S. population received a high school diploma back in 1940. It’s particularly been an uphill battle with minority populations. This graph provides a snapshot of the growth in graduates over the years:
The Origin of Graduations
Originally “universitas” meant a guild or group with licenses to teach while “graduate” comes from the Latin word “gradus” meaning “step.” And the caps and gowns that graduates now wear are a throw-back to the middle ages and resembles clothing worn by medieval clergy. While graduations are celebrated differently in every culture, there is a longstanding tradition of a graduation ceremony — complete with cap and gown in the U.S. This tradition has been relatively stable from the turn of the 20th century onward.
The Meaning Behind the Statistics
While this is good news, the question must be asked: What are these children learning? Therein lies the challenge. Are they getting a solid education grounded in American History (without all the leftist bias)? And without a doubt, the U.S. is above average in spending per student but tallies below average in performance. In reading, math, and science, American students rank in the middle of the pack worldwide. According to a Pew Research Center study, this unimpressive mediocrity has lingered for about the past 20 years.
And of course, what happens to all these graduates after they “walk” for their hard-earned diplomas? These are legitimate questions since education is not an end unto itself but rather a pathway to a career in the workplace. These queries are valid and perhaps even more significant than the graduation rate. Jeffrey Dorfman wrote in Forbes recently that underemployment of college graduates is a myth if you look at the stats:
The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports unemployment rates by education level. As of the January 2017 report which contains numbers for December 2016, the unemployment rate for college graduates was only 2.5 percent. That means that only one out of every 40 college graduates is unemployed. This is half the unemployment rate of those with high school degrees and one-third the unemployment rate of those with without a high school degree.
Getting more students to complete their high school education is a step in the right direction, and if the BLS figures are correct this also helps them in the job market. And that — at the very least — is a positive sign. Nevertheless, the American education system is badly in need of an overhaul regarding spending and performance levels as well as curricula. Perhaps that’s where Secretary of Education, Betsy de Vos should begin.