More than 20 years ago, the United States was ranked number one internationally by the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) for producing four-year-college graduates. Now it's not even in the top five.
The OECD measures how countries perform in the higher education arena and the US has been outdone by its counterparts in Europe and Asia for years. This may not seem like a big deal, but it is. Fewer college graduates make the US less competitive in global markets and may lead to a weaker economy over time.
Check out the infographic below to see how far the US is lagging on the international stage and how this problem came to be.
The low number of graduates is due to a variety of reasons, but the fact that college is simply unaffordable to many American families is certainly a driving factor. Fewer people will attend college if it means being saddled with a mountain of debt. Things have been tough for prospective American college students for years, and the future of reform on the federal level isn't particularly bright with President Trump and his Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos poised to eliminate important supports for financial aid. But more states are taking a look at how to get more of their residents enrolled, which is a positive sign. This is all the more reason to be paying close attention to activity in your home state around college affordability, and to voice your opinion one way or the other to local decision makers like state representatives or governors that can make a difference.