Young adults are making modest gains in college completion, but fall short of President Barack Obama’s goal of having the U.S. tops in the world in the percentage of college graduates, according to government figures.
Data released by the U.S. Department of Education showed 39.3 percent of young adults (ages 25 to 34) in the country had earned an associate, bachelor's or graduate degree in 2010, a half-percentage point increase from the previous year.
Figures were released ahead of Education Secretary Arne Duncan’s address to the National Governor’s Association in Williamsburg, Va., on Friday.
Duncan will call on governors and colleges and universities to rein in spiraling college tuition costs, one of the roadblocks to earning a degree, according to prepared remarks.
"We've made some progress, but the combination of deep state budget cuts and rising tuition prices is pushing an affordable college education out of reach for middle-class families," Duncan says in the remarks. "As the president has said, the countries that out-educate today will out-compete us tomorrow. The federal government has done a tremendous amount to increase the amount of aid available to students. But we need states and institutions to meet us halfway by doing more to keep college costs down."
Cost of tuition at four-year public universities jumped by 15 percent between 2008 and 2010, a rise fueled by state funding cuts, according to the department. The department also cites 40 states as having to slash higher education spending in the last year.