Higher Education

Higher education in the United States refers to a variety of institutions of higher education in the United States. Strong research and funding have helped make American colleges and universities among the world's most prestigious, which is particularly attractive to international students, professors and researchers in the pursuit of academic excellence. According to the Shanghai Jiao Tong University's Academic Ranking of World Universities, more than 30 of the highest-ranked 45 institutions are in the United States (as measured by awards and research output). Public universities, private universities, liberal arts colleges, and community colleges all have a significant role in higher education in the United States. An even stronger pattern seems to be shown by the 2010 Webometrics Ranking of World Universities with 103 US universities in the Top 200.

According to UNESCO the US has the second largest number of higher education institutions in the world, with a total of 5,758, an average of more than 115 per state. The US also has the highest number of higher education students in the world, a figure of 14,261,778,[3] or roughly 4.75% of the total population. The U.S. Department of Education shows 4,861 colleges and universities with 18,248,128 students in 2007.

The 2006 American Community Survey conducted by the United States Census Bureau found that 19.5 percent of the population had attended college but had no degree, 7.4 percent held an associate's degree, 17.1 percent held a bachelor's degree, and 9.9 percent held a graduate or professional degree. Only a small gender gap was present: 27 percent of the overall population held a bachelor's degree or higher, with a slightly larger percentage of men (27.9 percent) than women (26.2 percent). However, despite increasing economic incentives for people to obtain college degrees, the percentage of people graduating from high school and college has been declining as of 2008. 70.1% of 2009 high school graduates enrolled in college. Historically, 76% of those who graduate in the lower 40% of their high school class will not obtain a college degree.

The survey found that the area with the highest percentage of people 25 years and over with a bachelor's degree was the District of Columbia (45.9 percent), followed by the states of Massachusetts (37 percent), Maryland (35.1 percent), Colorado (34.3 percent), and Connecticut (33.7 percent). The state with the lowest percentage of people 25 years and over with a bachelor's degree was West Virginia (16.5 percent), next lowest were Arkansas (18.2), Mississippi (18.8 percent), Kentucky (20 percent), and Louisiana (20.3 percent).

According to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, in 1995 alone, U.S. universities granted 2,142 licenses and options to license patented technology, most of them exclusive; 169 start-up companies were formed in 1995 (more than 1,100 from 1980–95), for which such exclusive patents were the key. The licensing of university-research spin-offs adds more than 150,000 jobs to the U.S. economy each year.

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