WASHINGTON (TND) — According to the Department of Education, the U.S. recently achieved its highest graduation rates for public high schools in over a decade.
The federal agency found the U.S. average adjusted cohort graduation rate (ACGR) – a measurement introduced in 2010 that graduate within four years compared to the number of ninth grades that began the "cohort" (plus and minus for transfers, deaths and dropouts) – for the 2019-20 school year was 87% for high school students.
Despite the pandemic’s impact on learning, rates continued to grow. This is likely because virtually every state lowered graduation standards by relaxing criteria for things like attendance, testing, and credits. For example, in New York, over 70% of the class of 2021 got an exemption from at least one graduation requirement.
Although graduation rates nationwide are high, they do vary from state-to-state. The Department of Education says the rates range from 92% in West Virginia and Iowa to 73% in Washington D.C.
However, states with higher rates do not necessarily deliver a better education to their students. While West Virginia had some of the highest graduation rates, the latest test scores from the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) exam show the state ranked 47th on the exam.
Furthermore, these high graduation rates are not reflected in collegiate enrollment. A Wall Street Journal-NORC poll found most Americans do not think a college degree is worth the cost. The poll found 56% think it is a bad idea, compared to 42% who still believe it is a good investment.
Confidence in college is lower among those ages 18 to 34. This is the result of a continuing trend, which shows confidence has gotten lower over the years for nearly every group whether it be men, women, and even those that have college degrees. 42% of people with college degrees said it was not worth the cost which is 10% higher than it has been over the last decade.
There are many reasons for the lower faith in higher institutions of learning. Two of the biggest deterrents are student debt which – has reached a record $1.7 trillion – and low graduation rates at four-year colleges, which are around 60%.
College enrollment has overall plummeted 15% over the last decade. Meanwhile, people are pursuing other credentials as a less expensive alternative. According to the Department of Labor apprenticeships have risen 64%.
A recent study from Harvard Business Review found many companies, especially tech, are removing degree requirements and instead focusing on skills-based hiring. The study found 50% of IBM’s U.S. job openings do not require a four-year degree. However, this does not mean a degree doesn’t come with benefits. Data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) shows bachelor’s degree holders generally earn 84% more than people with just a high school diploma.