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The United States is one of the world leaders in tertiary education and educational attainment, important indicators in assessing the social mobility and poverty reduction. The US ranks fourth worldwide by enrollment in tertiary education and by proportion of the population with at least a tertiary education, according to the World Bank (2013). The US enrollment rates in tertiary education also exceed the OECD average. The US may, however, be repeating educational history. Enrollment in tertiary education has been declining since 2011, similar to the decline recorded from the mid-1990s through 2000 when the gross enrollment rates declined from 78 to 68 percent before rebounding to 95.3 percent in 2011.

While US enrollment rates in secondary education are only slightly lower than in other OECD countries, primary and pre-primary (preschool) enrollments show a greater deviation at 4.2 and 12 percentage points, respectively. Europe, in contrast, generally exceeds the OECD member average in pre-primary enrollments. Pre-primary enrollment is an important measure because of its relationship to better school performance overall during a student's educational career, based on studies from the OECD.

Educational attainment of adult populations vary greatly across US States, demonstrating a correlation with metropolitan centers of business and education and areas with higher historic investments in education. In Colorado, Connecticut, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, Vermont, Virginia, and Washington D.C. more than 35 percent of the population 25 years old and older has a bachelor's or higher degree. The least educated states for the same population set are Mississippi (20.6%) and West Virginia (18.2%).

Sources: World Development Indicators (WDI), August 2015OECD Factbook, 1950 to 2050US Regional Dataset, April 2015

Expenditures & Costs          Literacy & Achievement          Participation & Attainment

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Times Higher Education World University Ranking

Times Higher Education recognized the University of Oxford as the world's top university of 2016, snatching the top spot away from the California Institute of Technology, which had held the top rank since 2012 when it displaced Harvard University. This is the first year in the history of this ranking that a university from the UK has held the top spot. The World University Ranking by the Times Higher Education assesses research-intensive universities of different countries around the world across four key missions: research, teaching, spreading new knowledge, and international outlook.

Which university degrees give the best financial returns?

The world's top economies increasingly depend on skilled workers, with college graduates in high demand. A report from the research firm PayScale provides calculations on the returns to higher education in US universities. Its authors compare the career earnings of college graduates with the present-day cost of a degree at their universities. Top universities may be growing ever more selective, but the returns on a college degree still depend far more on field of study than the choosiness of the university itself, according to PayScale. Engineering and computer-science students earn most, achieving an impressive 20-year annualised return...

World Bank World Development Indicators (WDI) 2015 Data Ranking Chart

GDP current US$, GDP PPP, GDP per Capita, Population

Education vs Prison Costs in the United States

Educating a student costs a lot of money, but incarcerating someone in the United States costs much more because of the required 24/7 care and supervision of prisoners. The data from the 40 US states with operating prisons in 2010 reveals just how much money the US government spent on the incarcerated in contrast to elementary/secondary school students. Sources: Vera Institute of Justice; US Census Bureau.