The nation won’t met President Barack Obama’s goal of having the world’s highest proportion of college graduates unless more low-income and working class students earn bachelor’s degrees, a new story says.

The study, summarized in the Chronicle of Higher Education, says Obama’s goal would be achieved if all Americans earned college degrees at the same rate as those in the upper half of the income scale. According to 2009 Census data, only 12 percent of dependent students from the bottom half of the income distribution earned a bachelor’s degree by age 24, compared with 59 percent of those in the top half.

“The nation’s failure to keep pace with other countries in educational attainment among 25- to 34-year-old adults can be largely traced to our inability to adequately educate individuals from families in the bottom half of the income distribution,” according to the report by the Pell Institute for the Study of Opportunity in Higher Education. (A .pdf file of the 12-page report is available here.)

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