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Record Numbers for American High School, College Graduates
November 5, 2012

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The number of Americans finishing high school and college has hit an all-time high.

According to a study from the Pew Research Center, a full 90 percent of Americans ages 25–29 had graduated from high school, up from 78 percent in 1971.

That 12-percent increase was welcome news for many proponents of the importance of higher education. The study, which analyzed newly available census data, found that the tough economic climate had convinced many people to finish or go back to school. A 2010 survey found that nearly 75 percent of Americans placed importance on achieving a college degree; a survey asking the same question in 1971 found only 36 percent had the same appreciation for a college diploma.

The Pew study found the most striking increase in the number of Americans ages 25–29 who had completed some college course work: 63 percent, up from just 34 percent in 1971.

In the collegiate degree department, the study found another increase, with Americans ages 25–29 who had earned bachelor's degrees numbering 33 percent, a jump from 17 percent in 1971.

The study also found that the college-age population was more racially and ethnically diverse than previously, with 44 percent of today's students identifying themselves as non-white, up from 17 percent in 1971.

The authors of the study warned, however, that the American percentages lagged behind similar figures in other countries

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