Baseball great Satchel Paige famously warned ”Don’t look back. Something might be gaining on you.” I’m not sure Paige was thinking about college attendance, but we’re sure being gained on. Take a look at this graphic from the OECD’s Education at Glance 2013. The square boxes show the fraction of the adult population with a college education. While we trail a few countries, notably Canada and Russia, we’re even with or ahead of most countries.
Now look at the position of the arrows, which show college education for the recent cohort. For most countries, the arrow is considerably above the box. In other words, college education rates are rising. For the U.S, you can’t even see the arrow because it’s underneath the square. So while we used to be even with other countries or somewhat ahead, countries we compete with have boosted college-going for recent sets of young people and we haven’t.
Sure enough, something (like lots of the countries we compete with) is gaining on us.