2009 June 30 Tuesday
United States Tops In Higher Education Expenditures

In the United States the cost of higher education has been rising faster than the rate of inflation for decades. Turns out the United States spends almost twice the percentage of GDP on higher education than the average among OECD countries (basically the developed economies).

Among the OECD countries reporting data in 2005, the countries that spent the highest percentage of their GDP on total education expenditures were Iceland (8.0 percent), Denmark (7.4 percent), Korea (7.2 percent), and the United States (7.1 percent). Looking at education expenditures by level, the United States spent 3.8 percent of its GDP on elementary and secondary education, which was the same as the average for all OECD countries reporting data. Compared with the percentage of GDP that the United States spent on elementary and secondary education, 12 countries spent a higher percentage, 13 countries spent a lower percentage, and 2 countries spent the same percentage. Iceland spent the highest percentage (5.4 percent) of its GDP on elementary and secondary education. At the postsecondary level, 2.9 percent of the GDP of the United States was spent on education; this amount was higher than the OECD average of 1.5 percent and higher than that of any other OECD country reporting data.

That's a lot of waste we can ill afford. In education we have the potential to cut costs, raise quality, increase convenience, and increase accessibility all at the same time. Let me repeat what we need:

  • Large scale high res video recording of course lectures. State governments should fund this activity at state universities. Get more enduring value from paying professor salaries.
  • Make the videos downloadable and purchasable on DVD.
  • Develop web-based standard practice tests so people can test their mastery of topics while sitting at home or anywhere else with an internet connection.
  • Proctored standardized tests that you pay to take that let you get credit for knowledge in a subject without having to apply and enroll in a college.

The average college lecture is way worse than the best college lecture on any given topic. If many courses that cover the same topic were video recorded then we could choose among dozens of lecturers for the same course and we could rate them just like we rate books and gadgets on Amazon. So we could get much higher quality instruction. We could learn at our own pace. We could crame huge amounts of learning into a week or two off from work. We could watch lectures on a laptop while riding a train or subway. We could watch lectures on the beach or on a mountain top. We could test our abilities in a large range of subjects.

For a very small portion of what governments now spend on education far more automated means of delivery and testing could be made widely available for cheap.

Share |      By Randall Parker at 2009 June 30 09:31 AM  Education


Comments
averros said at July 4, 2009 3:47 AM:

How to get prices growing faster than inflation:

Step 1: establish cartel by the process of government "accreditation" and persecution of every non-accredited educational company which tries to award degrees (this does happen, from time to time).

Step 2: watch the cartel to jack up prices and diminish quality of the product.

Economic laws win again over the good intentions of believers in State Almighty.


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