Higher education in the United States

Higher education in the United States is an optional stage of formal learning following secondary education. Higher education is also referred as post-secondary education, third-stage, third-level, or tertiary education. It covers stages 5 to 8 on the International ISCED 2011 scale. It is delivered at 4,360 Title IV degree-granting institutions, known as colleges or universities.[1] These may be public or private universities, research universities, liberal arts colleges, community colleges, or for-profit colleges. US higher education is loosely regulated by the government and by several third-party organizations.[2]

In Spring 2022, about 16 million students — 9.6 million women and 6.6 million men — enrolled in degree-granting colleges and universities in the U.S. Of the enrolled students, 45.8% enrolled in a four-year public institution, 27.8% in a four-year private institution, and 26.4% in a two-year public institution.[3] College enrollment has declined every year since a peak in 2010–2011 and is projected to continue declining or be stagnant for the next two decades.[4][5][6][7][8][9]

Strong research funding helped elite American universities dominate global rankings in the early 21st century, making them attractive to international students, professors and researchers.[10] Other countries, though, are offering incentives to compete for researchers[11] as funding is threatened in the US[12][13] and US dominance of international tables has lessened.[14] The system has also been blighted by fly-by-night schools, diploma mills, visa mills, and predatory for-profit colleges.[15][16][17][18] There have been some attempts to reform the system through federal policy such as gainful employment regulations, but they have been met by resistance.[19] According to Pew Research Center and Gallup poll surveys, public opinion about colleges has been declining, especially among Republicans and the white working class.[20][21][22][23] The higher education industry has been criticized for being unnecessarily expensive, providing a difficult-to-measure service which is seen as vital but in which providers are paid for inputs instead of outputs, which is beset with federal regulations that drive up costs, and payments coming from third parties, not users.[24]

In a 2018 Pew survey, 61 percent of those polled said that US higher education was headed in the wrong direction.[25] A 2019 Gallup survey found that, among graduates who strongly felt a purpose in life was important, "only 40 percent said they had found a meaningful career after college."[26] In 2020, when the COVID-19 pandemic upended regular campus life forcing students to take online classes at home, more than 100 colleges, both public and private have been sued for tuition refunds, making many of them to reopen their campuses. Attending college is seen as "a rite of passage" to which the American Dream is deeply embedded.[27] In 2021, US student loan debt amounted to more than $1.7 trillion.[28]

The US higher education system is also unique in its investment in highly competitive NCAA sports, particularly in American football and basketball, with large sports stadiums and arenas adorning its campuses.[29]

  1. ^ Cite error: The named reference institutions was invoked but never defined (see the help page).
  2. ^ Nataša Bakić-Mirić; Davronzhon Erkinovich Gaipov (February 27, 2015). Current Trends and Issues in Higher Education: An International Dialogue. Cambridge Scholars Publishing. pp. 154–. ISBN 978-1-4438-7564-6.
  3. ^ "Spring 2022 Enrollment Estimates" (PDF). National Student Clearinghouse Research Center. May 2022.
  4. ^ "New book argues most colleges are about to face significant decline in prospective students - Inside Higher Ed". www.insidehighered.com.
  5. ^ "Why Is Undergraduate College Enrollment Declining?". NPR.org.
  6. ^ "The Condition of Education" (PDF). National Center for Education Studies. May 2018. Retrieved April 2, 2019.
  7. ^ "Intensive English Enrollments in U.S. Drop 20% - Inside Higher Ed". www.insidehighered.com.
  8. ^ Blog, N. S. C. (December 13, 2018). "Fall 2018 Overall Postsecondary Enrollments Decreased 1.7 Percent from Last Fall". studentclearinghouse.org. Retrieved March 21, 2019.
  9. ^ "Projections of Education Statistics to 2027" (PDF). National Center for Education Studies. February 2019. Retrieved April 2, 2019.
  10. ^ Phil Baty (September 16, 2010). "The World University Rankings: Measure by measure: the US is the best of the best". TSL Education Ltd. Retrieved December 12, 2012.
  11. ^ "Several countries launch campaigns to recruit research talent from U.S. and elsewhere". Insidehighered.com. Retrieved October 18, 2017.
  12. ^ "Senate Appropriations Bill Cuts NSF Funding". Insidehighered.com. Inside Higher Ed. Retrieved October 18, 2017.
  13. ^ "Proposal on indirect costs would put research universities in an impossible situation (essay)". Insidehighered.com. Inside Higher Ed. Retrieved October 18, 2017.
  14. ^ Erica Snow (September 26, 2018). "Oxford, Cambridge Top Global University Rankings: Long-dominant U.S. schools facing stiffer competition from overseas". Wall Street Journal.
  15. ^ Cite error: The named reference TCTShiremanForProfit was invoked but never defined (see the help page).
  16. ^ Cite error: The named reference Whitman was invoked but never defined (see the help page).
  17. ^ Cite error: The named reference Slate19thCent was invoked but never defined (see the help page).
  18. ^ Cite error: The named reference Robbins was invoked but never defined (see the help page).
  19. ^ Green, Erica L. (August 10, 2018). "DeVos Ends Obama-Era Safeguards Aimed at Abuses by For-Profit Colleges". New York Times.
  20. ^ Turnage, Clara (July 10, 2017). "Most Republicans Think Colleges Are Bad for the Country. Why?". The Chronicle of Higher Education.
  21. ^ "Republicans don't trust higher ed. That's a problem for liberal academics". Latimes.com. July 24, 2017. Retrieved October 18, 2017.
  22. ^ Hartle, Terry W. (July 19, 2017). "Why Most Republicans Don't Like Higher Education". The Chronicle of Higher Education.
  23. ^ "New data explain Republican loss of confidence in higher education". Insidehighered.com. Retrieved October 18, 2017.
  24. ^ Mitch Daniels, February 6, 2018, Washington Post, Health care isn't our only ludicrously expensive industry, Retrieved February 7, 2018, "... by evading accountability for quality, regulating it heavily, and opening a hydrant of public subsidies in the form of government grants and loans, we have constructed another system of guaranteed overruns ... pricing categories that have outpaced health care over recent decades are college tuition, room and board, and books...."
  25. ^ "Survey: Most Americans think higher ed is headed in wrong direction". www.insidehighered.com.
  26. ^ "Gallup, Bates report shows graduates want a sense of purpose in careers". www.insidehighered.com. Retrieved April 17, 2019.
  27. ^ Cite error: The named reference :0 was invoked but never defined (see the help page).
  28. ^ Kerr, Emma; Wood, Sarah. "See 10 Years of Average Total Student Loan Debt". www.usnews.com. US News. Retrieved September 28, 2021.
  29. ^ Vedder, Richard. "The Three Reasons College Sports Is An Ugly Business". Forbes.

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