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Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Why Our High Schools Can’t Keep Up with Our Universities

America's universities are the best in the world. Why aren't our high schools, too?

Much has been said about the high cost of higher education in America. And it is, indeed, quite expensive and getting more so at an alarming rate. For all that, though, at least we can say that America gets what it pays for in that we have the best higher education system in the world. In fact, it’s one of our biggest exports, totaling more than $35 billion—fully 5 percent of America’s export market—as of 2015. The same cannot be said for our primary and secondary education systems, with the US consistently ranking at around the middle of the pack among developed nations in standardized test scores. The thing of it is, the average annual cost per student in an American public high school is about the same as the average annual cost per student in an American public university. With the price of educating young people being generally the same for public high schools and public universities, why is there such a huge discrepancy in the outcomes for the students? Is there any way to remedy this situation? Join James Harrigan and Antony Davies as they discuss this and more on this week’s episode of Words and Numbers.

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Quick hits

Administrative bloat in health care and higher education

Homeland Security monitoring journalists


Foolishness of the week


Topic of the week: Public schools

Cost per public school student is around $13,000.


Standardized test scores about the same for most and least expensive public schools


Net tuition and fees at private 4-year colleges is $15,000.


Performance evidence for school vouchers


Comparison of US school students to students in other countries


Higher education is a major US export


Value of a high school diploma


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  • James R. Harrigan is a Senior Editor at the American Institute for Economic Research. He is also co-host of the Words & Numbers podcast.

  • Dr. Antony Davies is an Associate professor of Economics at Duquesne University, and co-host of the podcast, Words & Numbers.