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Cost, Commitment, and Attainment in Higher Education: An International Comparison

April 1, 2021

At a Glance

JFF commissioned this report to provide an international perspective on the productivity agenda of Making Opportunity Affordable, a multiyear initiative focused on increasing productivity within U.S. higher education, particularly at two-year and four-yea

JFF commissioned this report to provide an international perspective on the productivity agenda of Making Opportunity Affordable, a multiyear initiative focused on increasing productivity within U.S. higher education, particularly at two-year and four-year public colleges and universities. Authors Arthur Hauptman and Young Kim compare and analyze data on:

  • Cost: The amount that countries spend on tertiary education per student;
  • Commitment: The share of GDP a country spends on tertiary education; and
  • Attainment: The share of working-age adults holding a tertiary education degree.

The report suggests three approaches that the United States should consider to achieve higher attainment at sustainable levels of costs and commitment:

  • Focus more resources and attention on community colleges.
  • Pay more attention to developing and implementing strategies to improve completion rates at both two-year and four-year institutions.
  • Consider increases in enrollments as a means for moderating costs per student and improving productivity.

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