Posted on September 18, 2012

OECD Report Finds U.S. Lags Behind Other Countries in Higher Education Attainment Rate

Huffington Post, September 11, 2012

The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development’s 2012 Education at a Glance report has found that while the U.S. boasts high education attainment levels overall, it lags behind other countries that are increasing attainment levels at a higher rate.

The report analyzed the education systems of the 34 OECD member countries in addition to Argentina, Brazil, China, India, Indonesia, Russia, Saudi Arabia and South Africa.

In the U.S., 42 percent of all 25-64 year-olds have reached higher education — making it one of the most well educated countries in the world, but behind Canada (51 percent), Israel (46 percent), Japan (45 percent) and the Russian Federation (54 percent). When it comes to the young adult population, however, the U.S. ranks 14th among 37 OECD and G20 countries in the percentage of 25-34 year-olds boasting higher education attainment, at 42 percent. This puts it above the OECD average of 38 percent, but over 20 percentage points behind the leader, Korea, at 65 percent.

According to the report, higher education attainment levels in the U.S. are growing at a below-average rate compared to other OECD and G20 countries. Between 2000 and 2010, attainment levels in the U.S. increased by an average of 1.3 percentage points annually, while its OECD counterparts boasted a 3.7 percentage-point increase per year overall.

“Based on these trends, the U.S. may find that an increasing number of countries will approach or surpass its attainment levels in the coming years,” the U.S. country report reads. {snip}

These trends are also mirrored in the graduation rates of higher education institutions, the report states. In 1995, the U.S. ranked second behind New Zealand in graduate output among 19 OECD countries with comparable data. In 2010, it ranked 13th among 25 countries with comparable data. Though the higher education graduation rate in the U.S. grew from 33 percent to 38 percent over this time frame, the increase paled in comparison to that of its OECD peers, whose graduation rates on average nearly doubled from 20 percent to 39 percent.