Nick Kristof calls attention to the College Board's Completion Report. It's written mostly from a US perspective but the graphs are useful worldwide. In page 6 of the Executive Summary, we can see that the US is near the top in percentage of older people with some kind of college degree, behind Russia and Israel and together with Canada. However for younger people the rates stayed around 40% in the US, which is now in the middle of the pack, together with most Western European countries and way behind Canada, Korea, Russia, and Japan. Brazil is falling farther behind the worst performing European countries and the other South American ones included in the survey.
Data across countries may not be totally comparable, but the graphs are revealing. A college education is particularly important in places where high schools are not of a very high or homogeneous quality, such as Brazil or the US. It may well be the case that a Dane or a German who is not academically inclined will do just fine with a high school education only. However an American or a Brazilian who is not pushed academically probably did not attend a good high school either, so rates of college completion become more significant. The US statistics include 2-year colleges, and most college education is Brazil is supposedly professional. If you are familiar with them, you will agree that a significant fraction of private for-profit universities in Brazil offer degrees that are comparable to an American community college.
The most striking data is the increase in college education among Koreans, from 10% for the 55-64 year olds to 55% for the 25-34 year olds. Since the 1960s, Koreans have been investing in education, while Brazil has been subsidizing shipbuilding, ironworks, car factories, and electronics manufacturers. Guess who makes better ships, steel, cars, and electronics - the companies with the educated workers, or the ones which received government subsidies?
The Full Report has many more US-centered statistics, with state-by-state breakdowns, and besides being less interesting has glaring inconsistencies. While it is merely unlikely that Mississipi leads the country in percentage of high-school graduates going to college, it is completely impossible that only 6 states have a percentage of 25- to 34-year-olds with an associate degree or higher which is above the US average, in the 5 cases by a small amount, while 45 states have a lower percentage than the US average, many of them by a large margin as stated in page 13.