The number of American college graduates has been surging in recent years to a record high—which is probably a fair bit lower than you'd expect. As of last year, 33.5% of Americans aged 25 to 29 had at least a bachelor's degree, according to federal data. That's up from 24.7% in 1995 and 21.9% in 1975. It's the result both of more people enrolling and colleges doing a better job (but still not great; see below) of actually getting students to completion.
Of course, another possible reason for the spike is the recession, which caused many to flee to campuses rather than brave the job market. But the New York Times reports that graduation rates remain "distressingly low"—just half of the freshmen who enrolled in 2006 had graduated by 2012. "There are worrisome signs that the demand for high-skilled talent is increasing more rapidly than we're actually educating people," says the CEO of one higher education foundation.