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Higher education graduation in the U.S. - Statistics & Facts

There are various types of higher education institutions in the United States, and the education system in the country is influenced by three major factors. Higher education in the U.S. tends to be decentralized, propagates capitalism by assuming higher quality education through competition, and strives to promote equal opportunity and social mobility. There have been growing concerns over increasing tuition fees, student debt, and the lower quality of graduates. Yet, in today’s society, higher education is often considered essential to earning a higher income in the future. Those who have obtained a postgraduate degree tend to earn more in their lifetime than an individual with just a high school diploma. However, high student debt may mean that a fair share of postgraduates' income is spent on paying off their education.

Higher education was once dominated by men but throughout the 1980s, women started to make rapid gains in obtaining a postgraduate degree. Although women currently account for over half of graduates in the United States, there is still a significant gap within various ethnic groups. As of 2019, Black and Hispanic students made up a minority of Bachelor's degrees earned in the country, although university education in the United States has become more diverse.

Generally, universities are research and educational institutions that offer undergraduate and graduate programs. There is limited federal government influence on higher education, however, a state university system exists under the states and territories. Private universities are also common in the United States. An undergraduate program normally consists of four years of study to obtain a Bachelor of Arts or Science, among other possibilities. Studying an undergraduate program in Business has been one of the most prominent programs in recent years.

After completing an undergraduate program, graduate schools provide students with the opportunity to obtain a Master’s and doctoral degree. In graduate school, students may often have research or teaching responsibilities that provide a stipend. A stipend or tuition waiver may be provided to Ph.D. students as well to support their education. Students can also study at a community college to obtain an Associate's degree before studying for a Bachelor's degree. Studies at these institutions are usually intended to prepare a student for transfer to a four-year school or for vocational skills and training.


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