Study: Americans No Longer Most Educated People in the World

Wednesday, 02 Jul 2014 05:03 PM

By Lisa Degnen

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Older Americans still outrank their counterparts around the world when it comes to advanced education, but 25- to 34-year-olds fall well below South Korea, Japan, and Great Britain, according to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development.

A report in The Economist says that from 1990 to 2005, university enrollment was up to almost 50 percent in Northern Europe and 30 percent throughout the rest of the continent, but U.S. enrollment was only at 26 percent of the eligible population.

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A college education abroad doesn't always equal a higher pay scale. According to the study, graduates in the United States earned 77 percent more a year than those without degrees. But in Britain, the same educated population would only earn 57 percent more than someone with a degree, and in Sweden it's just 25 percent.

That, according to the site, is because Europe is saturated with highly educated graduates and there generally tends to be a high minimum wage for those who don't get a degree.

According to the report, a college education can pay off in the United States but with a value of $590,000 for men and $370,000 for women (based on the 2009 stats), getting that degree is costly. Student loans have doubled since 1993.

Factors like which college students attend and what field their degrees are in also affect pay.

For example, The Economist says a degree from a top-ranked school like MIT will yield about $2 million after 30 years. In contrast, someone who attends Valley Forge Christian College can expect to make only $148,000 during that time period.

A recent story in U.S. News and World Report questioned whether getting a college education is still worth it when many students accrue more than $25,000 in student loans.

"It depends on the kind of student you are talking about," Craig Brandon, author of "The Five-Year Party: How Colleges Have Given Up On Educating Your Child and What You Can Do About It," told U.S. News.

"It depends on the kind of student you are talking about. A student who is intelligent, motivated, engaged, and has a clear career goal should get a degree, and it would be a crime not to send her to the best college possible. On the other hand, the majority of college students are lazy, narcissistic, anti-intellectual party animals who refuse to read anything, disrupt classrooms, and spend more time drinking than studying."

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