A report released by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) found that, the U.S. fell from 12th to 16th in the global ranking of young adults who finish college.
The report examined the percentage of adults ages 25 to 34 with college degrees in developed countries.
Already trailing Canada, Japan and Norway, the U.S. was passed by Luxembourg, the United Kingdom, France and Sweden in the latest ranking.
Many U.S. officials believe a large educated workforce helps maintain global economic workforce competitiveness.
When President Obama announced an initiative in 2009 to overtake the lead in the rankings by 2020, the college graduation rate was 39 percent, based on 2006 data.
Since then, the rate has risen to 41 percent, based on 2009 data. However, the rate jumped to 63 percent in South Korea and 45 percent in the United Kingdom.
The statistics highlight the explosion of young adults attending higher education institutions among nations in Europe and Asia.
A report by the Washington Post cited a “continuing emphasis on four-year degrees in the United States” as a possible explanation for the slip, whereas foreign systems emphasize “one-and two-year professional credentials.”
Nevertheless, the U.S. dominates world rankings of individual universities.
Six of the top 10 universities in a 2011 list by US News are located in the U.S.
Likewise, a publication by Times Higher Education lists seven U.S. universities in its top-10 list, ranking each institution by its reputation for teaching and research.