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Despite persistent appeals from policymakers and politicians to increase the number of college graduates in the United States, a new report projects a shortfall of nearly 24 million degree-holders by 2025.

The cost to the U.S. economy in lost wages and income taxes? About $600 billion a year.

They’re the most dramatic figures yet in the ongoing debate about the need to improve the rates at which Americans successfully complete a higher education.

In order to reach the goal of having 60 percent of adults with college degrees by the year 2025, the United States would have to confer an additional 24 million degrees beyond what it is already producing—but it is projected to award only 278,500 more degrees, the Center for Law and Social Policy and the National Center for Higher Education Management Systems reported Thursday.

“These increases can’t be put off for another five or 10 years if we want a strong economic future for America,” said Vickie Choitz, a senior policy analyst at the law and social-policy center.

The three countries with the highest college-attainment rates—Canada, Japan and South Korea—are all expected to reach the 60 percent target by 2020.

The Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce previously projected that there will be a need for 22 million new college-educated workers by 2018, but that the nation will fall short of that number by at least three million.

The center estimates that, by 2018, more than two-thirds of the 47 million expected job openings in the United States will require some level of postsecondary education or training.

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