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New Trends Underscore Diversity and Demand for Education

Big changes are happening in America's cities and the changes could have a major impact on higher education.

Educators and policy makers can learn a lot from a new report released on May 9 by the Brookings Institution, State of Metropolitan America: On the Front Lines of Demographic Transformation. The information is a preview, of sorts, of the 2010 U.S. Census, pulling data from the annual American Community Survey.

New realities highlighted in the report included:

  • Cities are leading the way. Large metropolitan areas on the frontlines of demographic change, growing by 10.9 percent from 2000-2009 compared to the rest of the county which experienced a 5.8 percent growth. Total U.S. population has passed 300 million and is on target to reach 350 million by 2025.
  • Uneven higher educational attainment. More than one-third of U.S. adults had a college degree in 2008, up from one-quarter in 1990. Yet, the survey showed that younger adults, especially those in cities, are not receiving college degrees at the same rate as rate as their predecessors. In large metro areas, African Americans and Hispanics lag behind whites and Asians in bachelor degree attainment by more than 20 percent.
  • A more diverse and aging nation. Immigration is fueling America's population growth. About 83 percent of the country's growth was attributed to non-white groups, which now make up one-third of the population. Large metro areas are aging quicker than others with a 45 percent increase in the 55-to-64-year-old population from 2000-2008.
  • Income gap widens. The survey revealed low-wage and middle-wage workers lost considerable ground in income, but high-wage earners saw earnings rise in the last decade. In large metro areas, high-wage workers out-earned their low-wage counterparts by a ratio of more than five to one.

These are interesting trends for high education to ponder....a more diverse, aging population in need of more education to keep up economically. For detailed information about your region in the country, the Brookings interactive website is worth checking out.

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