U.S. spends ‘extraordinary amounts of money to produce college dropouts’

by Grace

We spend more of our economy on higher education than almost any other developed country, and achieve some of the worst results. 

… We devote more of our economy to postsecondary education than any other developed country (except South Korea, with whom we’re tied), according to a new report by the Georgetown Center on Education and the Workforce. But we’re rated near the bottom of the 20 countries included by college spending “efficiency”—or, degrees earned per percentage point of GDP spent.*


Much of the waste is related to colleges with low completion rates, which essentially function as “dropout factories”.

… Unlike, say, Germany with its renowned apprenticeship systems, there aren’t really great alternatives to college if you want a middle-class life in the United States. So ill-prepared young adults flood into degree programs they never finish, leaving the U.S. with some of the lowest completion rates in the developed world.

It is undeniably expensive to provide low-income students with the opportunity for higher education, but these numbers call into question how well the U.S. is doing in this endeavor.

Related:  Increasing college merit aid decreases enrollment of minority and low-income students (Cost of College)

3 Comments to “U.S. spends ‘extraordinary amounts of money to produce college dropouts’”

  1. American higher education is much more free wheeling than in most of those other countries, and it isn’t clear to me that Americans would accept, say, a Germany style system. In Germany most universities are public, and heavily supported by the government. Tuition is low, so students don’t have to spend lots of time working at outside jobs. Admissions are very strict, and of course, kids are tracked towards the university from an early age. It is an extremely rigid system with a lot of government input. That is why they are efficient.


  2. Not sure we really want to go the Korean route either. From wikipedia “Korean university education often continues traditions remaining from the medieval Korean civil service examinations which entitled ambitious young men to join a clerical aristocracy. Until fairly recently many Korean university students perceived the difficult and unpleasant entrance examination to be an end in itself, with the four years after treated as a reward. Thus Korean universities were largely lacking in rigor with many students spending their time socializing, drinking, and dating after years of such activities being discouraged. In the past decade, however, due to Korea’s increasing globalization and inflows of foreign faculty, work expectations are more closely resembling western universities and plagiarism, once openly tolerated, is becoming stigmatized. Rural and lower-tier universities, however, still in many cases function as degree factories with failures rare.”


  3. I’d go for strict admissions standards if the government is paying for most of a student’s education.

    It’s good to know plagiarism is becoming stigmatized in Korea. That sounds like progress!


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