Many feel that the American education system is not the best in the world. However, if you take a look at data like GDP, productivity, and education statistics, you’d see that American education works. The US is not just one of the most productive countries in the world, it also has the largest GDP in the world, with $21.48 trillion in the fourth quarter of 2020 (BEA, 2021). This is in no way possible if the education system is failing to get the American workforce up to speed.
Also, according to data, the US dominates in academic research. In 2019, American researchers contributed more than 20,000 research articles (Nature, 2019) in the natural sciences. China came in second with a contribution of only more than 11,000. That said, America leads in research volume by a wide margin, which proves the quality of the country’s education system. However, the specter of the COVID-19 pandemic was felt not only by the US education sector but also in other parts of the globe.
In this article, we’ve compiled some statistics on education in the US. In this way, you can get a general view of the state of American schools, universities, and students. Thus, you’d be able to form a better picture of possible future scenarios that you want to create or avoid.
General Education and Literacy Statistics
In this section, we’ll take a look at general international education statistics and zoom in on the situation in the US. You’ll see that even though the US is doing fairly well, it still needs improvement internally especially with the ongoing pandemic affecting educators and students alike.
International Education Statistics
- Across the globe in 2017, there were about 175 million pre-primary-aged children not enrolled in preschool education (UNICEF, 2019).
- International aid to early childhood development has increased from $1.3 billion in 2002 to $6.8 billion in 2016 (Theirworld, 2018).
- The literacy rate of the world is 86.4%. For developed nations, it’s 99.2% (World Bank, 2020; World Population Review, 2021).
- As of February 2021, 990,324,537 learners worldwide are affected by COVID-19 (UNESCO, 2021).
- As of January 2021, around 214 million kids worldwide were out of school due to the school closures caused by COVID-19 (Global Partnership, 2021).
- 126 million pre-primary and secondary school students were affected by school closures caused by COVID-19 (Global Partnership, 2021).
- Researchers found that about 53% of children in low- and middle-income countries cannot read proficiently by age 10 (World Bank, 2019).
- 50% of students worldwide do not have a computer for the distance learning programs brought about by COVID-19 (UNESCO, 2020).
- The global higher education market was valued at $65.40 billion in 2019 with an annual growth rate of 8.25%, projected to reach $117.95 billion by 2027 (Verified Market Research, 2021).
- The global online education market is projected to reach $247.46 billion by 2024, with an annual growth rate of 18% (MarketWatch, 2021).
- As of February 2021, 130 countries have implemented school closures due to COVID-19 (UNESCO, 2021).
- 56 million students have no access to stable mobile networks for distance learning programs amid COVID-19 (UNESCO, 2020).
Education in the US
- America is the third-most productive country in 2021 with an average of $67.32 GDP (PPP) per hour (World Population Review, 2021).
- The US is also the most prolific publisher of natural science research articles (Nature Index, 2019).
- The reading proficiency of almost two-thirds of fourth-graders in the US is below grade level. A similar percentage would go on to graduate from high school with subpar reading proficiency (Library Journal, 2020)
- 79% or about four in five US adults have English literacy skills enough to complete tasks requiring contrasting and comparing information, making low-level inferences, and paraphrasing (NCES, 2019).
- Roughly one in five adults (21%) have trouble completing these types of tasks (NCES, 2019).
- US-born adults make up about 60% of those with low-level English literacy skills (NCES, 2019).
- White (35%) and Hispanic (34%) adults have the greatest share in low levels of English literacy (NCES, 2019).
- 54% of US adults aged 16-74 lack reading proficiency as they read below the ideal proficiency level of sixth-graders (Forbes, 2020).
- There are approximately 14.63 million public college students and 5.15 million private in the US (NCES, 2019).
- California is the state that has the most number of high schools with 3,892 institutions while Delaware has the lowest with 83 (ThinkImpact, 2021).
- Only four states have officially ordered the reopening of school buildings amid COVID-19: Arkansas, Florida, Iowa, and Texas. West Virginia has reopened only the facilities of some grades (Education Week, 2021).
Difficulties in Managing Millions of Students
- An estimated 50.8 million students attended in 2020 (EducationData.org, 2019).
- Around 3.7 million kindergarten students from public schools attended class in Fall 2020 (NCES, 2020).
- Over 1 million international students attended class in the 2019-2020 school year (U.S. News, 2020).
- Meanwhile, experts estimate that by the end of 2021, around 56.6 million students will have attended elementary, middle, and high schools in the United States (NCES, 2019).
- California has the most students enrolled in both primary and secondary schools. It is followed closely by Texas (EducationData.org, 2019).
- Only five states have public high school graduation rates of 90% or above (EducationData.org, 2019).
- 6% of public high school students reported being injured or threatened with weapons on school grounds (EducationData.org, 2019).
- The estimated pupil-to-teacher ratio in public elementary and secondary schools is 15:8 while it’s 11:8 in private schools (NCES, 2018).
As you can see, America is the leading researcher in the natural sciences. What’s more, it has a productive workforce. However, it also has so much to improve on when it comes to the quality and state of its education. Threats of violence, low graduation rates, and low-level literacy skills still abound in the system. Furthermore, many students are currently struggling to keep up with the shift from face-to-face to online learning due to the pandemic.
Grade School Education Statistics
Young minds need tender care and guidance as much as a chance to learn, compete, and interact. School is designed just for this. And, it all starts officially when children walk inside their first-grade class the first time. So, in this section, we present you with the key statistics so you’ll have a better idea of the state of elementary education today.
- It was projected that in 2021, there would be a total of 39.5 million students enrolled from pre-kindergarten to grade 8 in the US (NCES, 2019).
- Also, it is expected that about 89% or about 35.2 million pre-kindergarten to grade 8 students will attend public school, and only 4.3 million will attend private schools (NCES, 2019).
- There are about 98,300 public schools in about 13,600 school districts in the US (EducationData.org, 2019).
- Experts estimate that there are 67,408 public primary schools in the US. Moreover, there are only about 20,090 private schools in the country (NCES, 2020).
- There were around 35.5 million elementary and middle school students in 2019 (EducationData.org, 2019).
- There are six years of free primary education in the US guaranteed in legal frameworks (UNESCO, 2020).
- The average expenditure per K12 public school student is $13,440 (EducationData.org, 2019).
- The math grades of grade school students are 5 – 10% lower compared to same-grade students before COVID-19 (Brookings, 2020).
High School Education Statistics
Hollywood and books portray American high schools in different ways. Surely, there are truths in fiction. However, some facts and statistics are quite sobering. Like any story, you can weave out of facts; there will be some good things and those that are bad. Here are some of them below.
The Good: Better High School Completion Rates
- The high school graduation rate in the US is a high 85.3% (ThinkImpact, 2021).
- Meanwhile, the dropout rate is a low 6% (ThinkImpact, 2021).
- The projected enrollment for grades 9 to 12 is at 17.1 million for 2021 (NCES, 2019).
- By 2021, about 91% of high school students are expected to enroll in public schools that’s 15.6 million (NCES, 2019).
- There are about 1.8 million secondary school educators in the US (ThinkImpact, 2021).
- Around 94% of high school students have access to Career and Technical Education (CTE) or vocational courses (ACTE).
- 95% of CTE students graduate high school. This is ten percentage points higher than the national average (Career Tech).
The Bad: Violence in Schools
- In the US, 4.6 million minors reside in households with at least one unlocked and loaded firearm (Giffords, 2020).
- 90% of shootings by children involve guns from their homes (Giffords, 2020).
- In 2017, 23.6% of 9 to 12 graders reported having been in a physical fight at least once during the past 12 months. About 30% are male, and 17% are female (NCES).
- However, physical fights seem to occur less and less. In 1993, about 41.8% of 9 to 12 graders had been in a physical fight at least one time during the last 12 months (NCES).
For practical reasons, many high schoolers prefer vocational courses based on these trade school vs. college statistics. This, they believe, maximizes their chances for employment in the future. If we view education as the preparation for real-world jobs, it just makes sense to provide vocational programs in high school. This, we expect to be more common than it is now in the future.
Special Education Statistics
Inclusivity in the American school system when it comes to people with disabilities seems to increase. Also, government-funded services for our less fortunate co-citizens increased as well as in numbers and quality. Many people believe that this success is due to social justice movements and advocacies that are made more vocal via digital media. However, the question here is whether these efforts will be sustained and improved further in the future.
General Special Ed Statistics
- In the school year 2018-2019, the number of students aged 3 to 21 that received special education services was around seven million. This is 14% of all public school students. Also, they received this special education under the Individuals and Disabilities Education Act or IDEA (NCES, 2020).
- New York State has the largest share of disabled students at 19.2%, followed by Pennsylvania (18.6%), Maine (18.4%), and Massachusetts (18%) (Pew Research, 2020).
- From 2011 to 2019, the number of students served by IDEA increased from 6.4 million to 7.1 million. The percentage of students served has also increased from 13% of public school enrollment to 14% of total public school enrollment (NCES, 2020).
- 67% of disabled students are male while 33% are female (Pew Research Center, 2020).
- Of the seven million that received services via IDEA, 33% had specific learning disabilities, 19% had speech or language impairment, 11% had autism, 7% had developmental delay, and 6% had an intellectual disability (NCES, 2020).
- 15% of IDEA students are listed as having “other health impairments,” which include acute health problems, asthma, epilepsy, leukemia, diabetes, lead poisoning, and rheumatic fever (NCES, 2020).
- Around 9.4% of children aged two to 17 received ADHD diagnosis. This is about 6.1 million (CDC, 2020).
- Approximately 4.5 million or 7.4% of children aged three to 17 have been diagnosed with behavior problems (CDC, 2020).
- 4.4 million or 7.1% of children aged three to 17 were diagnosed with an anxiety disorder (CDC, 2020).
- Around 1.9 million or 3.2% of children aged three to 17 years have been diagnosed with depression (CDC, 2020).
- Also, many times, these conditions occur together. For instance, about 37.9% of children with anxiety also have behavioral problems. Moreover, 32.3 % also have depression (CDC, 2020).
Higher Education Statistics
A lot of people view college as a key to success (or at least one of the keys). Many consider college education as a necessary cost to invest in a better future. University statistics reveal that about 87% of college degree holders are employed today. Meanwhile, only 74% of high school graduates are. Unfortunately, not everyone who wants to go to college or deserves to go has the opportunity to. This is an accepted fact. However, it is quite nuanced, as you can see in our diversity in higher education statistics. Many people talk about how the system is unfair but, when you take a look at the statistics, many are considered to be in the minority and less privileged like women, and men and women of color do somewhat better.
Bachelor’s, Master’s, and Doctorate Degrees Statistics
- 34% of the US population over the age of 25 have a bachelor’s degree (World Population Review, 2021).
- The country with the most universities is India with an estimated 4,354 higher education institutions, followed by the US (3,228), China (2,596), Indonesia (2,304), and Brazil (1,335) (CSIC, 2020).
- In the school year 2020 to 2021, there were an estimated 991,000 who graduated with an associate degree in the US. Experts expect the number to climb 994,000 in the following school year. (NCES, 2019).
- From the school year of 2017 to 2018, the top five bachelor’s degrees by field were (1) business with 386,201, (2) health professions and related programs with 244,990, (3) social sciences and history with 159,967, (4) engineering with 121,956, and (5) biological and biomedical sciences with 118,663 (NCES, 2019).
- The top five states with the highest share of bachelor’s degree holders for people aged 25 and older are the District of Columbia (59.7%), Massachusetts (45%), Colorado (42.7%), New Jersey (41.2%), and Maryland (40.9%) (US Census Bureau, 2020).
- The top five master’s degrees earned by field of research are (1) business with 192,184, (2) education with 146,367, (3) health professions and related programs with 125,216, (4) engineering with 51,721, and (5) computer and information sciences with 46,468 (NCES, 2019).
- The median years to complete a doctorate in 2018 was 7.3 years since starting graduate school (NCSES, 2019).
- The top five doctoral degrees earned by field of research are (1) health professions and related programs with 80,305, (2) legal professions and studies with 35, 544, (3) education with 12,780, (4) engineering with 10,817, and (5) biological and biomedical sciences with 8,222 (NCES, 2019).
Diversity in Higher Education Statistics
- 40.1% of associate degrees were earned by students of color (ACE, 2021).
- Also, around 31.5% of bachelor’s degrees were earned by students of color (ACE, 2021).
- 48 of enrolled elementary and secondary school students in the US are caucasian, 27% are Hispanic, 15% are African-American, 5% Asian, 4% two or more races, and 1% Native American (NCES, 2020).
- As of 2017, elementary and secondary students of other races/ethnicities (52%) in the US have outnumbered Caucasians (48%) (NCES, 2020).
- Data shows that in the school year 2019 to 2020, it was predicted that there were more female graduates with bachelor’s degrees (1.1 million) than males (842,000) (NCES, 2019).
- In the school year 2020 to 2021, experts predicted that more females will earn their master’s degree (around 492,000) than males (around 330,000) (NCES, 2019).
The current rise of online education will likely increase the number of degrees earned and education provided for students. Many educators and industry professionals fear that the quality of education might drop. However, there are measures out there like test-taking and mentoring that can keep the quality up. Also, college trends show that digital-based education might help out in bringing down the cost of college education for many.
US Education Market Statistics
Education is a big investment. This is not just for private individuals. It also goes for governments providing free or subsidized public education. Think of all the suppliers of educational materials and extra needs, such as lunches and computers. Not to mention technological support like digital tools to manage operations. Also, the market for student loans is quite big, as well.
General Educational Services Market Statistics
- The market size of educational services in the US is projected to reach $1.4 trillion in 2021 (IBISWorld, 2021).
- The educational services market is projected to decline by 0.5% in 2021 (IBISWorld, 2021).
- The education services industry in the US has an annual growth rate of 1.3% between 2016 and 2021 (IBISWorld, 2021).
- The US education market is projected to reach $1.9 trillion by 2025 (Facts & Factors. 2021).
- The estimated revenue of the US education market in 2020 was $77.1 billion (Statista, 2020).
- Moreover, the education market revenue is set to increase annually by 2.2% from 2019 until 2024 (Statista, 2020).
- The National School Lunch Program provided lunches to over 29 million students daily in 2019, which amounted to $14.1 billion (USDA, 2020).
Student Loan is a Big Market
- The total student loan debt in the US is $1.7 trillion (EducationData.org, 2021).
- Student debt in the US grows 6 times faster than the country’s economy (EducationData.org, 2021).
- Student debt in the US increases by $2,858 every second (Debt.org, 2021).
- In the US, there are 47.9 million student borrowers (EducationData.org, 2021).
- The average national student debt in 2020 was $32,731 (Forbes, 2020).
- To complete a bachelor’s degree, a public university student borrows, on average, $30,030 (EducationData.org, 2021).
- The university that provided the highest average student aid in the 2019-2020 school year is Columbia University, affording aid to around 300 international learners, each receiving an average of $71,069 (U.S. News, 2020).
- Lastly, the costs of attending for-profit four-year private institutions are around $33,200 for on-campus students, $22,700 for off-campus students living with their families, and $30,200 for students who live off-campus but away from family (NCES, 2020).
On Assessing the Value of Education
There are two general valuations of education. First, many people view education as a practical means to an end (mostly monetary). Second, others view education as an enterprise that helps us understand the world better. However, these are not mutually exclusive. For instance, one can hold a position where she wants to understand the world better for pragmatic and monetary reasons.
For most people, this is really what education stands for. It is the stepping stone towards success, whatever success may be. But, when we only view it from a subjective and pragmatic standpoint, we will inevitably fail to realize the greater role of education in terms of human flourishing.
It just seems reasonable to think that education primarily serves the purpose of providing us with cognitive tools to approximate the state of things of significance to us to take us to a better future. Partly, and fundamentally, it also serves to provide us with the tools and insights on how to decide on what to give significance to. This includes our very future.
To wit, most of these statistics presented are just the easily quantifiable parts of the education system and industry. They do not tell the full story about the quality of education in the US or the different perspectives on what ought to be done, especially with COVID-19 putting our pre-pandemic routines on hold. However, we hope that this compilation will help you gain a better perspective on the state of education today. In this way, you’ll be able to base personal or business decisions on statistical facts.
Lastly, for pragmatic reasons, we have also prepared an article about high-paying jobs without a degree requirement if you are interested.
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