Almost half of all college graduates are from the United States, China, and Japan combined, but graduation rates worldwide are on the rise.
To stay economically competitive on a global scale, President Obama says the United States needs 8 million more college graduates by 2020. That may sound ominous, but according to Education at a Glance 2011, the annual international report on the state of education released Tuesday by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, the nation is still the world leader in churning out college grads. In fact, OECD data reveals that almost half of the world's university graduates hail from three countries—the United States, China and Japan.
Among the 34 OECD and G20 countries, nearly 26 percent of the total 255 million college-educated individuals between the ages of 25 and 64 hail from the United States. China comes in a distant second at 12.1 percent and Japan is a close third at 11.4 percent.
Global prosperity won't increase if only three nations dominate higher education output, so it's heartening to see that the number of students heading to college increased 25 percent across all OECD countries between 1995 and 2009. If that trend continues, 59 percent of young adults in those countries will go on to college, while 19 percent will enter vocational programs over their lifetimes.
The number of students who actually graduate from college has increased across the board as well. In 2009, an average of 39 percent of students in OECD nations completed college, up from 20 percent in 1995. Since college dropouts cost the U.S. economy billions of dollars every year, an international increase in graduation rates is good news for the entire planet.