Free Interactive Report
Education in the US
By 2030 SDG 4, Quality Education aims to ensure inclusive and equitable quality education while promoting lifelong learning for all. This includes providing safe and inclusive learning environments and ensuring equitable access to education at all levels, including pre-primary and technical and vocational programs. This means addressing the cost of college and student loan debt, access to early childhood development programs, rising student-teacher ratios in K-12 education, and in the wake of COVID-19, addressing access to remote learning resources.
Quality Education in the US in Context
Globally, over 600 million youth lack basic math and literacy skills and 773 million adults (2/3 of them women) are illiterate. The shift to remote and virtual learning in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic is estimated to have left at least 800 million students out of school because of a lack of access to technology and other resources needed to access remote learning platforms.
In the US:
- 11.6% of public funding is spent on education.
- 6.1% of children ages 3-18 lived in a household with no internet, limiting their ability to access remote learning among other resources.
- Student loan debt has surpassed $1.7 trillion owed by over 43 million borrowers.
There are over 81 million students, where the average student-teacher ratio in elementary schools and secondary schools is 16:1.
Pre-primary Education & K-12 Education
are not in school
Participation in a preschool program has been shown to help with developing a range of learning and social skills and is important for early childhood development. However, according to research by the Annie E. Casey Foundation, during 2016-2018 over 4 million 3 and 4 years old (52%) were not in a pre-primary program, a percent that has not changed since 2009.
As of 2018, there are 130,930 K-12 schools in the United States, 70% of which are public. Federal projections estimate there will be 50.6 million K-12 students, and 3.2 million full-time teachers in the Fall of 2021, with an average student to teacher ratio of 16:1. However, this varies greatly by state. Attracting and retaining teachers plays a large role in the increasing student teacher ratios. 14% of new teachers resign by the end of their first year, 33% leave within their first 3 years, and almost 50% leave by their 5th year.
The 2015-16 school year was the first in which the majority of public school children were minorities. Yet 79.3% of teachers are white. The vast majority of teachers are also women (76.5%).
In 2018, 6.1% of children ages 3-18 lived in a household with no internet at all. This only further compounds the unequal impacts the pandemic is having on children and families as schools have shifted to fully remote learning.
The past 10 years have seen a significant decline in college attendance, and while there are many factors that play a part in the decision to seek higher education, the rising costs of colleges and the burdens associated with student loan debt are a huge barrier (read more in the Economic Impacts and Negative Effects sections below).
Additionally, only 1 in 4 high school students graduate college-ready in the 4 core subjects of English, Reading, Math, and Science. This is significant considering 85% of current jobs and 90% of new jobs require some or more college or post-secondary education.
- 69.1% of high school completers attend college in the fall after they graduate - 63.1% attend 4-year schools and 36.9% attend 2-year institutions.
- 10.4% of American adults are currently enrolled in college part-time or full-time.
- 66% of associates’ degrees conferred are in 3 fields: general studies and/or humanities, health professions & related, and business.
51% of all bachelor’s degrees are in 5 fields: business, health professions & related studies, social sciences & history, psychology, and biological & biomedical sciences.
Technical & Vocational Education
Trade and vocational schools offer practical training and education to prepare students for skilled careers, such as carpentry, cosmetology, welding, and nowadays software development and other tech careers. Enrollment in vocational programs and trade schools saw a significant decline at the end of the 1990s. This resulted in a shortage of skilled workers qualified to work in the manufacturing, infrastructure, and transportation industries especially. Now, all of these fields are expected to grow in the coming years—and many of those jobs likely won’t require a four-year degree.
The rising costs of traditional degree programs, combined with the specific skill sets many jobs require (such as software and coding)- and that many vocational programs can prepare students with - has led to a shift in thinking about the value of alternative education programs to a 4-year degree.
Explore More Using Our Interactive Report
This interactive report is continuously updated and it is free thanks to X4Impact Founding Partners. The report highlights some selected education indicators.
You can view trends on student faculty ratios, K-12 student population, and student loan debt statistics nationally, or by state. You can also understand the flow of money to fund nonprofits working on quality education, as well as exploring by state the list of nonprofits that work on this issue.
The Negative Effects of Student Loan Debt
43 million people in the US have student loan debt totaling $1.7 trillion. 95% of which is from federal loans and 45% from graduate school.
The average student loan debt is currently $37,693 but varies widely by type of loan, state, race/ethnicity, and gender. Those with master’s degrees owe an average of $71,318, increasing to over $100,000 for law school, and over $200,000 for medical school.
For federal student loans, the average debt is $36,510, compared to $54,921 for Private student loans.
The vast majority of student loan debt belongs to white students (55%) and women (58%) - who also have more debt associated with graduate school than men, yet 48% of Black students owe an average of 12.5% more than they borrowed, while 83% of White students owe 12% less over the same time period.
Student Loan Debt has far-reaching consequences. Recent college grads with student loan debt:
- often have to settle for lower-paying, lower-skill jobs just so they can start paying their loan bills right away.
- are 36% less likely to purchase a house.
- are less likely to have taken out car loans, have worse credit scores, and more likely to be living with their parents.
These consequences are also not equally distributed. 33% of Hispanic and Latino borrowers delayed getting married and having children due to student loan debt. 46% of Black student borrowers put off buying a home.
The Economic Impact of Education
The US education services sector employs over 3.5 million teachers and administrators, and relies heavily on government funding. All levels of government spend a combined $720.9 billion, or $14,840 per pupil, to fund K-12 public education. State governments provide the majority of funding (46.7%) followed by local (45.6%) and Federal (7.7%). K-12 schools spend $612.7 billion ($12,612 per pupil) annually. As a result of the pandemic, the Federal government provided an additional $13.2 billion to schools through the CARES ACT.
Key Indicators of Success Defined by the United Nations for UN SDG 4
The United Nations has defined 10 Targets and 11 Indicators to track progress towards reaching the Sustainable Development Goal of Quality Education by 2030 including:
- The proportion of children enrolled in organized learning (one year before the official primary entry age), by gender.
- The participation rate of youth and adults in formal and non-formal education and training.
- The number of youth and adults with information and communications technology (ICT) skills.
- Reducing differences in education access and other indicators as a result of gender, location, wealth, and other characteristics such as disability status.
- The number and diversity of qualified pre-primary, K-12 teachers, and university professors.
* Percentage of high school dropouts among persons 16 to 24 years old. People who have received equivalency credentials, such as the GED, are counted as high school completers. Includes both noninstitutionalized persons (e.g., those living in households, college housing, or military housing located within the United States) and institutionalized persons (e.g., those living in prisons, nursing facilities, or other healthcare facilities).
Interactive Tool Sources:
- Students-Teacher ratio and Student Dropout rates: US Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, Common Core of Data (CCD). 2019 and 2020 projections are from X4Impact Data Sciences Team
- Student Debt: EducationData.org
- Student Population and US Demographic Data: X4Impact Analysis of US Census Bureau
- Nonprofit-related data: X4Impact analysis of over 600,000 forms 990 filed with the Internal Revenue Service -IRS 2018-2020
- Annie E. Casey Foundation – Education Indicators
- Do Something – 11 FACTS ABOUT EDUCATION IN AMERICA
- Educationdata.org – College Enrollment
- Educationdata.org – Student Loan Debt
- The Atlantic – The Stigma of Choosing Trade School Over College
- Educationdata.org – Education Spending
- Federal Reserve – Student Loan Debt
- National Center for Education Statistics
- Education Week: Education Statistics – Education Statistics: Facts About American Schools
- SDG Tracker – SDG 4
- Global Goals – SDG 4