A sobering critique of the nation’s ’60 percent goal’

The year was 2009. The goal, by now, should sound familiar.

In his first year in office, then-President Obama said 60 percent of the nation’s 25- to 34-year-olds should hold a college degree or professional certificate.

“That number has instead crawled from about 39 percent to just under 48 percent,” Jon Marcus of the Hechinger Report wrote this week, in a sobering look at the nation’s postsecondary completion push.

The nation’s struggle is even more acute in Idaho, which adopted an identical 60 percent goal in 2010. As of 2017, the state’s postsecondary completion rate is mired at 42 percent.

What has gone wrong? Marcus’ conclusions should also sound familiar. He blames several factors — including budget cuts, tuition hikes and “increasing public skepticism about the value of a higher education.”

Idaho’s college and university system weathered unprecedented budget cuts through the Great Recession. Over the past decade, Idaho’s general fund budget for higher education increased by 12 percent. Meanwhile, tuition and fee collections increased by 155 percent.

“Even while publicly raising alarms about a shortage of skilled workers, all but four (states) — California, Hawaii, North Dakota and Wyoming — have simultaneously cut their higher education budgets,” Marcus wrote.

More reading: Idaho’s push for the 60 percent goal faces obstacles, rooted in economics, geography and culture. Click here to read our eight-part series, “Obstacles and Options: Building Paths Beyond High School.”



Kevin Richert

Kevin Richert

Senior reporter and blogger Kevin Richert specializes in education politics and education policy. He has more than 30 years of experience in Idaho journalism. He is a frequent guest on "Idaho Reports" on Idaho Public Television and "Idaho Matters" on Boise State Public Radio. Follow Kevin on Twitter: @KevinRichert. He can be reached at [email protected]

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