Editor's note: The United States has slipped against its peers in education attainment over the last few decades. The country now ranks 10th in the world in the percentage of 25- to 34-year-olds with high school degrees, according to the Council on Foreign Relations, while Americans ages 55 to 64 still rank No. 1. There's a similar fall in college: Older Americans rank third across the globe, while the younger age group is 13th.
Yahoo News asked Americans without high school or college degrees to share their story and tell us how they believe their lives are different because they lack a diploma. Here's one perspective.
FIRST PERSON | I am a 32-year-old woman living in north Georgia without a college degree. I did graduate from high school, and while my story about my lack of a college degree is unique for this day and age, decades ago, it would not have seemed odd in the least.
I graduated from high school in June 1999 and married at the end of July. I chose to marry young not because I was pregnant but because my fiancé and I felt there was no valid reason to wait until we were older to get married. He had already completed his college training and had a good job working at an architect's office as a draftsman. His salary paid enough for us to start our married life. That, coupled with a family house to live in, made the choice of when to get married easier.
I did not neglect college because I got married. It was really more because I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life. I thought I would wait until inspiration and direction hit me before I wasted time and money on a degree.
A few years later, my husband and I started talking about having children. At this time, we determined that when we had children I would stay home with them. Therefore, it seemed needless to go to college at that point.
After having children, it was funny to note that the other moms with whom I developed friendships were all at least six years older than me. It seems, because I neglected to go to college before I started a family, I was ahead of the curve so to speak. My friends were still in school or unmarried when I began having kids. However, years later, my friends are finally having children now that mine are quite a bit older.
My children are now 9 and 11, and I am working from home as a freelance writer. I occasionally wish that I had a degree. However, my chosen career of writing web content was not even a valid career choice in 1999 when I was making my decision for college.
I am not sure what the future will hold for me in regards to higher learning. I may go to college when my kids are grown. I would most likely earn an English degree to help me with my writing if I did go back. However, it is possible that I will go into a totally different career field. However, since I got married young and had children young, I have plenty of time to find my niche in life. Therefore, I have not regretted not obtaining a degree.
My choice of neglecting college was the best decision for me. I have enjoyed staying home with my children and personally being there as they took their first steps and said their first words. Being able to witness these events and attending school parties and field trips with them now is worth far more than any college degree. It's too bad there isn't some sort of college credit for shaping the next generation, as I think I would be close to earning a bachelor's degree.