Friday, December 05, 2003

America's higher ed advantage 

There was a graph at the top of Thursday's opinion page of Investor's Business Daily that intrigued me. The page is not online, but it used data from the OECD (.xls) on per-person spending on college and university education. The US, at $19,220, is more than double the OECD avreage of $9,210. A blurb next to the graph notes:
Americans are disappointend with their elementary and secondary schools, which use a lot of money but underperform other nations' school systems. Our university system is another matter. Americans spend more than any other nation on university and college education. It's a key part of our productivity edge.
I wanted to be sure this wasn't a function of our higher GDP per capita, and it's not. We spend 2.7% of GDP on higher education, compared to 1.7% over the entire OECD.

Two points worth noting: All of the difference is due to private higher ed spending, not public (private spending is roughly double public; at 0.9% of GDP public higher ed spending in the States is at the OECD mean.) And higher education is 3.5% of US services exports as of 2000, generating over $10 billion in revenue to US schools. (See Table 5 in the link.)