The number of undergraduate degree holders began to increase after a pandemic-induced shutdown.
In the 2020-2021 academic year, the total number of undergraduate degree graduates increased by 1.1% (or 39,000) to 3.7 million graduates. It’s based on the National Student Clearinghouse Undergraduate Degree Holders Report, 2020-21 Academic Year.
The growth was fueled by students who are not graduating for the first time, particularly bachelor’s degree holders, including 22,000 additional bachelor’s degrees with a prior associate’s degree, according to the report’s authors. However, “new graduates as a whole have not experienced growth,” said Mikyung Ryu, director of research publications at the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center.
“It implies a growing dichotomy between haves and have-nots when it comes to post-secondary education,” Ryu added.
There was growth among associate degree graduates, up 0.3% after a 3.7% decline the previous year. But the number of certificate holders fell 2.6%, continuing a downward trend.
Another finding: Students under 25 continued to “lower their first associate degree and certificate completion,” according to the report.
In contrast, new graduates of non-traditional ages (25+) increased by 1.4%. This was mainly due to a 4.3% growth in graduates in their thirties. Despite this growth, students 25 and older graduating with their first undergraduate degree are still below pre-pandemic levels.