PBS NewsHour examines ‘The Graduation Gap’

The PBS NewsHour is taking a special week-long look at one of the biggest problems facing higher education in the United States.

More students are enrolling in college, but the percent of students who actually earn a college credential by the age of 24 has only increased significantly for families with the highest household incomes. Between 1970 and 2013, the percent of students earning college credentials from families with incomes in the top quarter of all household rose from 40 to 77 percent.

For students from families in the lowest quarter of all households, attainment of a college credential rose from 6 to just 9 percent.

Each night from August 17-21, the PBS NewsHour will take a look at efforts on campuses across the country — from the University of Texas at Austin to Valencia College in Orlando, Florida — focused not just getting more low-income, first-generation students into college, but through college to a useful credential.

Online, the NewsHour and our partners at the Hechinger Report and Inside Higher Ed, will examine places where efforts like these are paying off and where states and others are falling short.

By some projections, within the next five years about 65 percent of jobs in the United States will require some form of certification beyond a high school diploma.

But despite a focus from the Obama administration and countless nonprofits, degree attainment in the U.S. is not rising fast. In 2013, 40 percent of those between 25 and 65 had a postsecondary credential, just 2.1 percentage points than the 37.9 percent that did in 2008.

That stall has more leaders and educators asking what it will take to close the country’s graduation gap.

PBS NewsHour coverage of higher education is supported by the Lumina Foundation and American Graduate: Let’s Make it Happen, a public media initiative made possible by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.

Support PBS NewsHour: