Higher spending may not help U.S. higher education outperform peers

September 10, 2014 / Phil Lesch

September 9th, 2014

The United States’ spending on higher education far outstrips that of other countries that make up the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development, according to the group’s annual Education at a Glance report released today. Annually, the U.S. spends about $26,000 per student, compared to the OECD average of less than $14,000.

But it looks like Americans may not be getting as much return on their investment as they could be.

In 2012, 43 percent of 25 to 64 year-old Americans held a degree beyond a high school diploma — up seven percentage points from 36 percent in 2000. Despite President Obama’s goals for increasing college access and completion, many OECD countries saw their degree-holding population rise faster over the same period. Canada, the only country where residents held more degrees than Americans in 2000, saw a 13 point jump to 53 percent in 2012. Luxembourg had the biggest increase — degree holders there rose from 18 to 39 percent of working-aged adults. (In the graphs included in this post upper secondary refers to educational attainment equivalent to a high school diploma in the U.S. and tertiary refers to the level of an associate’s degree or higher.)

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