The US Has Made No Progress on College Graduation Rates in 30 Years (Chart)

Both the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities’ Jared Bernstein and University of Missouri-St. Louis political scientist Kenneth Thomas flagged some data from the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development showing that America’s college graduation rate hasn’t improved in 30 years. “Not only are the US attain levels now behind those of 12 other countries, but we’ve made no progress in a generation,” Bernstein noted.

On the chart, the blue square represents college attainment of 55-64 year olds, while the triangle represents 25-34 year olds. For the U.S., the percentages attaining a degree are nearly identical, which is clearly not the case for a host of other countries.

Percentage of population that has attained tertiary education.

One of the problems stifling America’s educational attainment is the growing cost of college. Since 1985, fees and tuition have nearly sextupled, while outstanding student debt by some estimates has already cleared $1 trillion.

At the same time, Republicans in Congress are proposing cuts to higher education aid under the faulty theory that increased financial aid is driving tuition hikes. Under the budget which the House Republicans passed, more than one million students would lose their Pell Grants, which help low-income students pay for college.