Schools awarded 1.6 million bachelor's degrees in 2007–08, an increase of 32 percent since 1997–98; 625,000 master's degrees, up 45 percent; and 63,700 doctoral degrees, up 38 percent, according to data from the National Center for Education Statistics
. There are more educated Americans now than ever, but are we better off for it? The value of a degree has been debated for decades: In The Overeducated American
, published in 1976, Harvard economist Richard B. Freeman argued that a college education is no longer a safe path to financial success and that there may be an oversupply of college-educated workers. Since 2000, the real earnings of college-educated workers have been on a downward trend, Businessweek.com reported
in 2009. An educated workforce is important for the country's knowledge economy, but boosting college participation does not guarantee a more skilled workforce—it might just "put more downward pressure on academic standards," George C. Leef, director of research at the John William Pope Center for Higher Education Policy, wrote in 2006.