According to the data from the U.S. Department of Education, 39.3% of the country’s adults ages 25 to 34 earned college degrees in 2010–a mere half-percentage point increase over the previous year. Due to concerns that rising tuition costs create a barrier to college completion, Education Secretary Arne Duncan is expected to urge states and institutions to help the federal government keep costs down. Tuition at four-year public universities increased 15% 2008 and 2010, a rise driven largely by cuts to state funding. In addition, 40 states trimmed their higher-education spending in the last year.
President Barack Obama previously set a goal for the U.S. to lead the world in the proportion of college graduates by the year 2020. He also called on every American to commit to at least one year of higher education or career training. Currently, the U.S. ranks 16th in the percentage of young adults who have earned a college degree, behind countries including South Korea, Canada, Japan, and Russia. To meet the president’s goal, an estimated 10 million more Americans ages 25 to 34 will need to earn a two- or four-year degree.