Although college-enrollment rates for recent high school graduates have been rising, college attainment levels among young workers appear to have leveled off. An analysis of Census Bureau statistics in the Numbers News shows that from 1940 to 1971, the share of Americans aged 25 to 29 who had completed four or more years of college nearly tripled from 6% to 17%, and it hit a peak of 24% in 1977. But since then, the share has fallen slightly and generally moved sideways.
One reason may be that many youths leave college early--either because of costs, learning problems, or more limited goals than earning a four-year degree. Increased immigration of less educated young adults may also be a factor. Whatever the reason, however, the educational-attainment level of the total adult population will continue to rise for many years to come as older, less educated groups die off and are replaced by their better-schooled offspring.