AAC&U News, March 2014

The 2002 High School Sophomores, Ten Years Later

Facts & Figures

The National Center for Education Statistics has published the results of the third and final survey in the Educational Longitudinal Study of 2002, which collects data related to the education and social development of American high school students over time.  The cohort of students tracked in this study, high school sophomores in 2002, were approximately 26 years old when the most recent data was collected in 2012.

A significant majority of the participants had pursued some form of postsecondary education at the time of the survey, but only a third had attained a bachelor’s degree, and another third had not received any postsecondary credential at all.  Educational attainment plays a major role in the careers and lifestyles of this cohort, with higher levels of education correlating strongly with lower unemployment, higher earnings, and greater job satisfaction. The report also tracks a number of other lifestyle factors as they relate to educational attainment.

Many Students Pursue Higher Education, But Less than Half Obtain a Degree

  • Thirty percent of the students in the cohort had earned a bachelor’s degree by 2012; 9 had percent earned an associate’s degree and 10 percent a postsecondary certificate, while 32 percent had attended a postsecondary institution but had not earned a credential.
  • Among those who began college within three months of high school completion, 42 percent had earned a bachelor’s degree and 11 percent earned a master’s degree; amongst those who began thirteen months or more following high school, only 6 percent had earned a bachelor’s degree.
  • Twenty-four percent of respondents were still taking postsecondary courses, including 19 percent who were working while taking courses; 63 percent were working but not taking courses, and 13 percent were neither working nor taking courses.

More Education Translates to Better Employment

  • Higher levels of education were strongly correlated with lower levels of unemployment—only 6 percent of bachelor’s degree holders were unemployed or out of the workforce. Thirteen percent of associate’s degree or certificate holders were not working, and 27 percent of those with no postsecondary education were not working.
  • Those who completed a bachelor’s degree were much less likely to have lost a job during the recession (19 percent) than those with only a high school diploma (40 percent) or those who did not complete high school (45 percent).
  • Higher degrees correlated with higher earnings—a third of bachelor’s degree holders earned more than $40,000 a year, compared with 26 percent of associate’s degree holders and 14 percent of those with only a high school diploma.

College Prepares for Work and Citizenship, Students Say

  • Amongst those who had any postsecondary enrollment, 63 percent said college was very important in preparing them for work; 28 percent said college attendance was very important in preparing them for civic participation and 42 percent that it was somewhat important.
  • Almost 80 percent of bachelor’s degree holders and 68 percent of associate’s degree holders said their current job either fulfilled or was a step toward their career goals; 60 percent of high school graduates said the same.
  • Sixty-three percent of those with some postsecondary enrollment said college was very important in preparing them for further education in their lives.

Did You Know?

  • More than 84 of percent high school sophomores from 2002 have pursued some form of postsecondary education, but 33 percent have not earned a degree or credential.
  • Those who entered college immediately after high school were much more likely to earn a four-year degree or master’s degree than those who delayed enrollment.
  • Almost 80 percent of bachelor’s degree holders said their current job fulfills or is a step toward their career goals.

NCES has published the full results of the study as a PDF online: http://nces.ed.gov/pubs2014/2014363.pdf

About AAC&U News

AAC&U News is written and edited by Ben Dedman. If you have questions or comments about the newsletter's contents, please e-mail dedman@aacu.org.

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