U.S. Gives Up Lead In College Graduation Rates

May 18, 2000

Three countries have surpassed the U.S. in the proportion of the population that has graduated from college, according to a study from the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development.

  • On average, nearly one-quarter of young people in the industrialized OECD countries now complete university-level education.
  • As a percentage of the population, the graduation rate in Norway was 37.1 percent in 1998, 35.1 percent in the United Kingdom and 34.6 percent in the Netherlands.
  • The U.S. rate in 1998 was 32.9 percent -- up from 30 percent in the early 1990s.
  • College and university enrollment grew by more than 20 percent in OECD countries between 1990 and 1997 in all but five countries -- Canada, Germany, the Netherlands, Switzerland and the U.S.

One important reason the U.S. dropped to fourth place, experts explain, is the high dropout rate among college students here. More than one-third of university students in the U.S. leave school before getting a degree -- compared to rates of less than 20 percent in Japan and the U.K.

Source: Tamara Henry, "USA Falls to Fourth in College Grad Rate," USA Today, May 18, 2000.


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