By Lisa S. Cleveland
Director of Communications, National Association of State Treasurers
April 28, 2014
sled dog

We’ve all heard the adage, “Unless you’re the lead dog, the scenery never changes.” Unfortunately, the United States may no longer claim to be the lead dog when it comes to the percentage of its population with a college degree.

The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) in a recent report ranks the U.S. fifth in 25-64 year-olds who have completed a post-secondary degree.* The report notes that a number of countries have now surpassed the United States in the percentage of their population of younger adults who have completed college.
In 2011, 43 percent of 25-34 year-old Americans had received a college degree — above the OECD average of 39 percent — but far behind Korea, which boasts a 64 percent rate among this age group.

Other studies have consistently found that higher levels of college graduates are strongly associated with higher employment rates and are perceived as a gateway to better job opportunities and wages. Taking this information and other sources into account, Degree Match recently produced an interesting infographic that outlines the status of education in the United States as compared to the rest of the world. It highlights both the good news and the bad, providing the U.S. with a challenge to maintain and grow its strong system of higher education.

One of the challenges that many students in today’s economy face is the prospect of paying for their higher education. That’s where 529 college savings plans can be most helpful. These tax-advantaged vehicles are a great way to save for future college expenses, making the prospect of a higher education a reality for many who would otherwise struggle to pay for it.

Many are already taking advantage of these plans, as outlined in the March 2014 College Savings Plans 529 Report. Participation in these plans continues to grow and last year jumped by 4.5 percent over 2012, to 11.6 million.

You can make a difference in a loved one’s life by helping them save for college! Visit to learn more about 529 college savings plans.


OECD (2013), Education at a Glance 2013: OECD Indicators, OECD Publishing,


Degree Match (2014), Economy and Education: How America is Falling Behind;


College Savings Plans (2014), College Savings Plans 529 Report,




About the Author:


Lisa S. Cleveland is director of communications for the National Association of State Treasurers. The College Savings Plans Network (CSPN) is an affiliate of NAST.