Are we in danger of losing the American Dream? The 21st-Century Commission on the Future of Community Colleges recently concluded that we are. Incomes are stagnating, the middle class is shrinking, and the prom- ise that every child has opportunity—the promise of upward mobility—is fading.
These downturns are associated with declining educational attainment rates in the United States relative to other developed countries—and with the fact that our nation’s distribution of education is as polarized as its distribution of wealth.
America needs a highly educated population to strengthen our place in the world market, grow our economy, and engage in our democracy. But we cannot have an educated workforce and citizenry if our current reality persists. Today, White students are earning college degrees at substantially higher rates than are both Black students and Latino students. We are also seeing a growing gender gap. Women have been outpacing men in undergraduate degree attainment since the mid-1990s. In 2011, U.S.
women surpassed men in the number of advanced degrees earned as well.