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Goal: Increase college access, quality, and completion by strengthening higher education and lifelong learning opportunities.
Objective: Increase the number of students enrolling in postsecondary education.
How progress is measured: The percent of 18- to 24-year-olds enrolled in college: 2005-07 and 2007-09
Why is this measure important? The fastest growing jobs in the 21st century require some form of postsecondary education.  To help meet this growing demand, the President has set a goal for increased educational attainment—that by 2020, the United States will once again lead the world in college attainment. A generation ago, the United States was first in the world in college attainment; today we rank 9th. In order to reach this goal, 8 million more Americans must complete college, above what would otherwise be expected from normal population growth. We must ensure that this generation of students is prepared to enroll in and succeed in college in order to ensure that we meet this goal and keep America strong for years to come.
What do the data tell us at the national level? The percentage of 18- to 24-year-olds in the United States enrolled in colleges and universities was higher in 2007–09 (45 percent) than it was in 2005–07 (44 percent).
What are the limitations of the indicator? Student migration patterns can affect the enrollment rates. Enrollment rates reflect a combination of students completing high school and attending colleges in a given state, but also include students who graduated from high school in other states and are attending college in the given state. These migration patterns would tend to lower the enrollment rates of states from which the students migrated. Students attending distance education programs (or commuting across state lines to their institution) are counted in the state in which they reside, rather than the state in which their institution is located. Since the measure reflects averages over a 3-year time period, short-term changes may not be apparent.
Documentation for the indicator: Enrollment data are taken from the Public Use Microdata Sample (PUMS) of the American Community Survey (ACS), produced by the U.S. Census Bureau. Estimates are 3-year averages. Use of a 3-year average increases the sample size, thereby reducing the size of sampling errors and producing more stable estimates. For additional information on PUMS and the ACS, visit http://www.census.gov/acs/www/.
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