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United States Falling Behind in Higher Ed

University Business, Oct 2006

"We're number one" was once an accurate claim among U.S. education leaders. That is clearly no longer the case, according to "Measuring Up 2006: The National Report Card on Higher Education," released this fall from The National Center for Public Policy and Higher Education.

The United States is falling behind in educating its younger citizens and almost all U.S. states were given a grade of F when it comes to higher education affordability. "The report's findings challenge the notion that the American higher education system is still the 'best in the world,'" writes James Hunt, former governor of North Carolina and chair of the center's board of directors.

"While the United States is still a world leader in the proportion of Americans ages 35 to 64 with a college degree (39%), it ranks seventh in this measure for 25-to-34-year-olds," notes the report summary. Further, the United States ranks in the bottom half-16th among 27 countries compared-in the proportion of students who complete a college degree or a certificate program.

Equally disturbing is the financial and higher education affordability data presented. The percentage of family income needed to pay for college-after accounting for financial aid-has risen dramatically since the last report was published. The percentage is up from 28 to 42 in Ohio; from 24 to 37 in New Jersey; from 18 to 30 in Iowa; and from 25 to 36 in Oregon. As well, there are major gaps in participation between high-income and low-income students ages 18 to 24. Virginia stands out as having a gap of 58 percent versus 14 percent, respectively.

The latest "Measuring Up" report is the fourth such report card on U.S. progress, which is issued every other year.

The report gives a state-by-state analysis (including comparative maps) in key areas: preparation, participation, affordability, completion, benefits, and learning. Links to the entire report can be found at -Jean Marie Angelo

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