A Snapshot of U.S. and Global Higher Education Today

Updated July 10, 2020 | Infoplease Staff

Students in collegeThe months when many students will be making their final college choices are upon us, so it's a good time to take a look at the status of college enrollments around the world. The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) provides data that—while it may not represent all of the world’s countries—provides an interesting snapshot of how the United States stacks up against other countries when it comes to higher education.

Rate of Enrollment in Non-Mandatory Schooling:

The rate of enrollment refers to what percentage of the viable school-age population is enrolled at an institution of higher learning. This often corresponds closely with GDP, but not always.
OECD Median Enrollment: 86.0%
Country with the Highest Percentage: Ireland (94.8%)
Country with the Lowest Percentage: Colombia (43.6%)
U.S. Percentage: 81.6%

Enrollment of Women in Non-Mandatory Schooling:

There’s been a global trend of women becoming the majority of college attendees in many countries—a far cry from earlier decades. It is rare now for men to ever be a college majority.
Country with the Highest Percentage of Women: Ireland (97.2%)
Country with the Lowest Percentage of Women: Colombia (43.2%)
Highest Disparity Between Women and Men: Costa Rica (Women +18.1%)
Highest Disparity Between Men and Women: Switzerland (Men +1.9%)
U.S. Percentage: 83.5%
U.S. Disparity: Women +3.8%

College Superlatives:

And lastly a comparison of our superlative universities. The richest, the biggest, and the oldest. Let’s see how the rest of the world stacks up against the U.S.
Richest U.S. College: Harvard University ($32.7 billion)
Richest Non-U.S. College: King Abdullah University of Science and Technology ($20 billion)
Largest U.S. Colleges: University System of Ohio (>.5 million students)
Largest Non-U.S. Colleges: Indira Gandhi National Open University (>2 million students)
Oldest U.S. College: Harvard University (1636 CE)
Oldest Non-U.S. College: University of Al-Karaouine (859 CE)

Sources: oecd.org and collegestats.org

By Logan Chamberlain
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