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Solutions for our Future is an effort to raise awareness that higher education is one of America's greatest resources

Global Competition

The United States has long been a world leader in higher education. But we can no longer make that claim--not because of declines in performance here, but because of increasing investments in higher education abroad.

  • In 2004, eighty-seven percent of the U.S. population between the ages of 25 and 34 had completed high school, which was well above the OECD average but has changed little over the years.  However, in more than half of all OECD countries, the proportion of 25-to-34-yearolds with at least a high school education now exceeds 80%, and in Canada, the Czech Republic, Japan, Korea, Norway, the Slovak Republic and Sweden it exceeds 90%.

  • The change over time in the United States ranking in high school completion can be clearly seen when looking at different age cohorts. The United States ranks first among the 30 OECD countries in the high school educational attainment of 55-to-64- year-olds in the 30 OECD countries (i.e. those who completed high school some 40 years ago) but only 11th among 25-to-34-year-olds, who completed high school a decade ago. By contrast, Korea ranks 24th among 55-to-64-year-olds but 1st among 25-to-34-year-olds.

  • Among OECD countries, the US has slipped to #16 in high school graduation, and 9th in postsecondary enrollments.

  • Although the college graduation rate for the United States increased slightly between 2000-2004, (from 33% to 34%), it was slightly below the OECD average college graduation rate and well below the highest rates of over 45% reported by Australia, Denmark, Finland, Iceland, New Zealand and Norway.

  • The current rates of college participation suggest that even more countries are likely to catch up and surpass the United States graduation rates. The number of students enrolled in college in the United States increased 21% between 1995 and 2003,considerably below the OECD average of 38% and well below increases in Australia, the Czech Republic, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Korea, Mexico, Poland, Portugal, the Slovak Republic and Sweden, that ranged from 33% to 169% during the same period.
  • Income Inequality in the US Exceeded Other Industrial Countries.
     Click to enlarge

    income equity

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American Council on Education
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