Recently released reports detail progress regarding degree attainment goals, provide a deeper look into Parent PLUS loans, and reveal troublesome state higher education funding trends.
The Lumina Foundation, in its fifth annual A Stronger Nation through Higher Education report, suggests that progress is being made toward their goal of 60 percent of Americans obtaining a high-quality postsecondary credential by 2025. The 2014 data is encouraging and paints a picture of positive degree attainment trends over time. Some key findings presented in the report include:
· 39.4 percent of Americans between the ages of 25-64 possess a two- or four-year college degree
· Degree attainment for young adults (25-34) is more than three percentage points higher than 2008 rates
· The nation’s working-age population (ages 25-64) is predicted to reach a higher education attainment rate of 56 percent in 2025, and the nation’s young-adult population (ages 25-34) is predicted to reach an attainment rate of 60 percent by 2025.
The American Enterprise Institute (AEI) produced a report in its Reinventing Financial Aid series titled “Access to What and for Whom? A Closer Look at Federal Parent PLUS Loans.” Awilda Rodriguez, the author of the report, suggests that the conversation around Parent PLUS loans is largely lacking the empirical data necessary to holistically understand the loan program. Parent PLUS loans, which come with significantly higher interest rates and limited repayment options compared to other undergraduate student loans, have become an increasingly popular approach for financing an undergraduate education. Therefore, the findings of the report offer useful insight for policy makers, such as:
· 17 percent of all Parent PLUS loan disbursements went to only 1 percent of all higher education institutions (30 total institutions)
· Approximately 20 percent of PLUS disbursements go to institutions with graduation rates lower than 50 percent
· 13.8 percent of undergraduate students had parents who borrowed through the Parent PLUS loan, and the average amount of debt accumulated was $19,310.
Finally, the Center on Budget Policies and Priorities released the findings of their analysis of state higher education funding, ultimately concluding that States are Still Funding Higher Education Below Pre-Recession Levels. Some of the evidence presented in the report to support this conclusion includes:
· Forty-eight states — all except Alaska and North Dakota — are spending less per student than they did before the recession.
· States cut funding deeply after the recession. The average state is spending $2,026 or 23 percent less per student than before the recession.
· Per-student funding in Arizona, Louisiana, and South Carolina is down by more than 40 percent since the start of the recession (Louisiana is among the eight states that continued to cut funding over the last year).
· Wyoming, West Virginia, Louisiana, Wisconsin, and North Carolina cut funding the most over the last year. Of these, all but Wyoming have cut per student funding by more than 20 percent since the recession hit.
· In the last year, 42 states increased funding per student, by an average of $449 or 7.2 percent.