Many feel that the American education system is not the best one 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 $21.22 trillion in 2019. 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 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.
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.
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. (REAL Center, 2018)
- In 2018, the literacy rate of the world was at 86.3%. The world literacy rate had not dipped since 2004. (World Bank, 2019)
- In 2016, 132 million girls worldwide were out of school, including 34.3 million girls of primary school age, 30 million of lower secondary school age, and 67.4 million of upper secondary school age. (UNESCO, 2018)
- Researchers found that about 53% of children in low- and middle-income countries cannot read proficiently by age 10. (World Bank, 2019)
- By 2030, countries must have about 69 million teachers to provide each child with both primary and secondary education opportunities. This includes around 24.4 million teachers for primary school and 44.4 million for secondary school. (UNESCO, 2020)
- In 2017, the global growth rate of the education industry was about 3.66%. (Deloitte, 2017)
- Experts valued the global education market to be $51.8 billion in 2016. Also, many predict that it would reach $105.75 billion by 2025, with a CAGR of 8.25% from 2017 to 2025. (Kenneth Research, 2019)
- The global online education market will likely reach about $139.9 billion by 2023, with a CAGR of 28.55% from 2017 to 2023. (Market Reports World, 2019)
- Research shows that the global impact of international students to be at $300 billion. (Studyportals, 2019)
Education in the US
- America was the eighth-most productive country in 2019. (MSN, 2019)
- The US is also the most prolific publisher of natural science research articles. (Nature Index, 2019)
- More than 617 million or six out of ten children and adolescents of lower secondary and primary school age do not have the minimum proficiency levels in reading and mathematics. (UIS Fact Sheet, 2018)
- 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)
- The illiterate population in the US was at a high 1.4 million in 2015. (UNESCO, 2020)
Difficulties in Managing Millions of Students
- Experts estimate that in 2019, around 56.6 million students attended elementary, middle, and high schools in the United States. (NCES, 2018)
- California has the most number of students enrolled in both primary and secondary schools. It is followed closely by Texas. (Education Data, 2020)
- Only five states had public high school graduation rates of 90% or above during the school year 2016 to 2017. (Education Data, 2020)
- In 2017, 6% of public high school students reported being injured or threatened with weapons on school grounds. (Education Data, 2020)
- Also, in 2017, around 96,121 children of primary school age were not in school in the US. That’s just more than 6,000 to that of Morrocco. (UNESCO, 2020)
- In 2018, around 379,000 were enrolled in private kindergarten schools. (US Census Bureau, 2019)
- The pupil-to-teacher ratio in public elementary and secondary schools is 15:8 while it’s 11:8 in private schools. (NCES, 2019)
- Lastly, more than $85 billion was set aside by the government for elementary and secondary school budgets. (NCES, 2020)
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, some feel that there are still hints of racial segregation.
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 2020, there would be a total of 39.7 million students enrolled from pre-kindergarten to grade 8 in the US. (NCES, 2018)
- Also, it is expected that about 89% or about 35.3 million pre-kindergarten to grade 8 students will attend public school, and only 4.3 million will attend private schools. (NCES, 2018)
- For the 2018-2019 school year, there were about 98,300 public schools in about 13,600 school districts in the US. (Education Data, 2020)
- 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)
- In 2018, there were 26.7 million students enrolled in public elementary schools. (US Census Bureau, 2019)
- There are six years of free primary education in the US guaranteed in legal frameworks. (UNESCO, 2020)
- Only 2.82 million grade school students enrolled in private schools. (UNESCO, 2020)
- In 2017, the completion rate for elementary education was at 99.7%. (UNESCO, 2020)
High School Education Statistics
Hollywood and books portray American high school 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
- There are six years of free secondary education legally guaranteed in the US. (UNESCO, 2020)
- High school dropout rates decreased from 10.9% in 2000 to a low 6.1% in 2016. (Education Data, 2020)
- The projected enrollment for grades 9 to 12 is at 16.9 million for 2020. (NCES, 2018)
- For 2020, about 91% of high school students are expected to enroll in public schools that’s 15.4 million. (NCES, 2018)
- The most recent completion rate data for high school students was in 2017, and it was at 94.2%. (UNESCO, 2020)
- Around 94% of high school students have access to Career and Technical Education (CTE) or vocational courses. (ACTE, 2018)
- 95% of CTE students graduate high school. This is ten percentage points higher than the national average. (ACTE, 2018)
The Bad: Violence in Schools
- In 2017, 3.5% of 9th-grade students, 4% of 10th-grade students, 4.8% of 11th-grade students, and 5.8% of 12th-grade students had access to a loaded gun without adult supervision at or away from school. (NCES, 2018)
- From 6th to 12th graders, 9.6% of Native Americans and Alaskan Natives, 1.7% of Hispanics, 4.2% of African Americans, and 4.2% of Caucasians have access to a loaded gun with adult supervision at or away from school in 2017. (NCES, 2018)
- 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, 2018)
- 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, 2018)
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 2017-2018, 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, 2019)
- Of the seven million that received services via IDEA, 34% had specific learning disabilities. (NCES, 2019)
- From 2011 to 2018, the number of students served by IDEA increased from 6.4 million to 7 million. The percentage of students served has also increased from 13% of public school enrollment to 14% of total public school enrollment. (NCES, 2019)
- In 2017, the total number of teachers and paraprofessionals for IDEA efforts reached 3.7 million across all states. (USDE, 2019)
- In the 2017 to 2018 school year, 34% have a specific learning disability. This is the most common type of disability being dealt with. (NCES, 2019)
- 19% served by IDEA had speech or language impairment 10% deal with autism, 7% deal with developmental delay, 6% have intellectual disability, 5% experience emotional disturbance, 2% have multiple disabilities, and 1% have a hearing impairment. (NCES, 2019)
- 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 86% of college degree holders are employed today. Meanwhile, only 56% 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 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
- The number of higher education was on a decline from 2013 to 2017. In 2013, the number of institutions was around 4,724. For 2017, it dropped to 4,313. (NCES, 2018)
- In the school year 2016 to 2017, about one million graduated with an associate degree in the US. Experts expect the number to drop in the next five years. Also, they won’t reach the one million mark. (NCES, 2018)
- 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 population that completed a bachelor’s degree are (1) District of Columbia with 60.4%, (2) Massachusetts with 44.5%, (3) Colorado with 41.7%, and (4) New Jersey and (5) Maryland with about 40.8%. (US Census Bureau, 2019)
- 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; National Science Foundation, 2019)
- The top five doctoral degrees earned by field of research in the school year 2017 to 2018 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. (US Department of Education; NCES, 2019)
Diversity in Higher Education Statistics
- 40.1% of associate degrees were earned by students of color. (ACE, 2019)
- Also, around 31.5% of bachelor’s degrees were earned by students of color. (ACE, 2019)
- In 2016, 40.9% of high school or equivalent graduates enrolled in an undergraduate program. Of them, 18.8% were Native Americans or Alaskan Natives, 20.4% were Native Hawaiians or Pacific Islanders, 42.2% were of more than one race, and 57.2% were Asians. (ACE, 2019)
- Data shows that in the school year 2019 to 2020, we can expect more female graduates with bachelor’s degrees (1.1 million) than males (842,000). (NCES, 2018)
- In the school year 2020 to 2021, experts predict that more females will earn their master’s degree (around 492,000) than males (around 330,000). (NCES, 2018)
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
- Data show that the US education industry will reach around $2 trillion by 2026. (Zion Market Research, 2018)
- Besides, this 2020, the US market size is approximately about $1.6 trillion. (IBISWorld, 2020)
- The education services industry in the US grew 1% per year on average between 2015 and 2020. (IBISWorld, 2020)
- The market size of education will grow in 2020 at an estimated rate of 1.3%. Also, this has grown slower than the overall economy of the country. (IBISWorld, 2020)
- Researchers estimate the total revenue for the US education market to be at $71.8 billion in 2019. (US Census Bureau, 2020)
- In terms of growth, the education industry ranks 22nd among other industries from 2018 to 2019, with a 2.8% growth. Also, Insurance carriers and the health care industry are the top two with 3.2% and 2.7% growth, respectively. (US Census Bureau, 2020)
- In 2018, federal costs for school lunch was up to $18.24 billion. (Food and Nutrition Service, 2019)
Student Loan is a Big Market
- The total student loan debt in the US is $1.56 trillion. (Forbes, 2019)
- Student debt in the US increases by $2,858 every second. (Debt.org)
- In the US, there are 5.1 million direct loan borrowers. (Center for Online Education)
- $28,400 is the average national student debt. (Smart Asset)
- The average borrower in the class of 2017 is likely buried in $38,000 of student debt. (Market Watch, 2020)
- In the 4th quarter of 2019, $450 billion in student loans were being paid via income-based repayment plans with government backing. (Market Watch, 2020)
- Lastly, the costs of attending for-profit four-year private institutions are around $32,000 for on-campus students, $22,400 for off-campus students living with their families, and $30,400 for students who live off-campus but away from family. (NCES, 2019)
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. 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.