The Forgotten Giant: Higher Education Sector, Key to America’s Future, Must Be at Center of Election and Post-Election Dialogue

Higher education must be at the center of the election and post-election dialogue. Currently, United States colleges and universities are providing both liberal arts and specialized, professional, and technical education to a record 21.5 million women and men. Our higher education system is central to the strength of U.S. society and our institutions, democracy, and economy.

For most of the 20th century, the U.S. had the best higher education system in the world. At present, however, our country is ranked 16th in the world in percentage of population with college degrees at a time when we expect that, in the next six years, nearly two-thirds of American jobs will require a postsecondary degree.

In an effort to place higher education on the nation’s agenda on the eve of the presidential election, Carnegie Corporation of New York—in cooperation with The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, TIME Magazine, and Time Warner—is  convening a Higher Education Summit on October 18th in New York. The summit will gather some 100 leaders of U.S. higher education institutions as well as prominent federal and state officials and corporate and philanthropic leaders. Various panels will discuss critical challenges and opportunities facing U.S. higher education, including cost, access, globalization, and technology. You can follow the summit via live Twitter feed at #RethinkCollege.

The summit will coincide with a special issue of TIME on higher education, available on Friday, October 19th, and on  on Thursday, October 18th.

In order to underline the magnitude and centrality of higher education in our nation, Carnegie Corporation of New York has compiled key data including the following statistics:

4,599. U.S. colleges and universities authorized to grant associates degrees or higher.

21,554,004. Students currently enrolled in these colleges and universities.

30. Percentage increase in enrollment between 2006 and 2012. From 16,531,000 to 21,554,004.

1.8. Faculty (in millions) employed at degree-granting institutions.

254. Total revenues and expense (billions of dollars) for U.S. institutions of higher education.

63.  Percentage of all U.S. jobs that by 2018 will require some sort of postsecondary education.

16.  Rank of the U.S. among industrialized countries in percent of 25-34 year-olds with a college degree.

“The size and impact of the sector demands that we address the challenges at hand,” said Vartan Gregorian, President of Carnegie Corporation of New York and former President of Brown University. “Our young people’s acquisition of knowledge, skills, and the ability to maintain life-long learning, will determine the success or failure not only of individuals but of our economy and global competitiveness.”

For more than 100 years, Carnegie Corporation has worked to advance American education. By co-convening the Higher Education Summit with The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, as well as through our investments in education reform, the Corporation continues to address the enormous challenges facing our nation’s higher education sector.

About Carnegie Corporation of New York

Carnegie Corporation of New York was created by Andrew Carnegie in 1911 to promote the advancement and diffusion of knowledge and understanding. In keeping with this mandate, the Corporation's work focuses on the issues that Andrew Carnegie considered of paramount importance: international peace, the advancement of education and knowledge, and the strength of our democracy.