The U.S. spends more on education than any other country in the world. In 2020, the U.S. spent an estimated $1.07 trillion on education, which is more than double the amount spent in 2000.
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Education spending in the United States has been on the rise in recent years. In 2017, total education spending reached $1.07 trillion, an increase of 3.6 percent from the previous year (in inflation-adjusted terms).1 Of this total, $689 billion went towards elementary and secondary education, while $380 billion was spent on postsecondary education (colleges and universities).2
On a per student basis, the United States spends more on elementary and secondary education than most developed countries. In 2015, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) found that America spent an average of $12,415 per primary and secondary student, which was higher than the OECD average of $9,419.3 However, when it comes to postsecondary education spending, the United States falls below the OECD average. In 2015, America spent an average of $15,171 per college student compared to the OECD average of $17,173.4
So how much does the United States actually spend on education? Below is a breakdown of education spending in 2020 by level and source of funding.
Elementary and Secondary Education
In 2020, elementary and secondary education will account for 47 percent of all education spending in America.5 Of this total, 82 percent will come from state and local sources, while the federal government will contribute 18 percent.6 Total spending on elementary and secondary education is expected to reach $634 billion in 2020.7
In 2020, postsecondary education will account for 53 percent of all education spending in America.8 Of this total, 45 percent will come from state and local sources, while the federal government will contribute 55 percent.9 Total spending on postsecondary education is expected to reach $703 billion in 2020.10
How much does the U.S. spend on education in 2020?
The U.S. spends more money per student on education than any other country in the world. In 2020, the U.S. is projected to spend $1.07 trillion on education, which is an increase of $46 billion from 2019. This includes spending on elementary and secondary schools, as well as higher education.
Federal spending on education
The U.S. federal government spends more on defense than on any other single category of domestic spending, but education is a close second. In 2020, the federal government is projected to spend about $79 billion on elementary and secondary education and about $35 billion on post-secondary education. That’s a total of more than $114 billion, or roughly 3 percent of all federal spending.
The majority of federal spending on education goes to elementary and secondary schools, which are primarily funded through the Department of Education’s Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) programs. ESEA programs provide funding to supplement state and local educational budgets, with the goal of ensuring that all children have access to a high-quality education.
In 2020, the Department of Education is also projected to spend about $12 billion on post-secondary education, most of which goes to financial aid programs like Pell Grants and Stafford Loans. These programs provide need-based financial assistance to students attending college or career school.
Federal spending on education has increased significantly over the past few decades. In 1980, the federal government spent just over $30 billion on elementary and secondary education and just under $10 billion on post-secondary education. That’s a total of less than $40 billion in today’s dollars. So, while federal spending on education has nearly tripled since 1980, it still represents a relatively small share of the overall budget.
State and local spending on education
It is estimated that, in 2020, state and local governments will spend $700 billion on elementary and secondary education, which is equivalent to $12,600 per student enrolled in public schools.1 By comparison, the federal government spends about $70 billion on elementary and secondary education, or about $1,200 per student.2
Total spending on education—by all levels of government combined—is expected to be about $1.07 trillion in 2020.3 Of that total, 42% will come from state and local sources, 46% from the federal government, and the remaining 12% from private sources.4
In terms of total spending on public elementary and secondary schools as a share of gross domestic product (GDP), the United States ranked 18th among 36 Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) countries in 2010.5 Among OECD countries for which data are available for both 2000 and 2010, the United States was one of only eight countries where spending as a share of GDP declined during that period.6 From 2000 to 2010, U.S. spending on public elementary and secondary schools as a share of GDP decreased from 4.6% to 4.3%.7
In terms of per-pupil expenditures by level of government, the United States ranked first among OECD countries in 2010.8 In that year, U.S. per-pupil expenditures were almost five times higher than the OECD average when all levels of government were considered collectively (public and private). When only public expenditure is considered, U.S. per-pupil expenditures were still more than double the OECD average.”
How does the U.S. compare to other countries when it comes to education spending?
The U.S. spent an estimated $1.07 trillion on education in 2020. This is a 4.4% increase from 2019. The U.S. spends more on education than any other country in the world. In fact, the U.S. spends about twice as much as the next highest spending country, China.
In the United States, public spending on education was estimated to be $11,762 per student in 2017, which was more than the OECD average of $9,471. Among the 34 OECD countries, the United States ranked ninth in terms of education spending per student.
countries that spent more on education than the United States in 2017 were:
-Norway ($16,757 per student)
The United States spends more on education than any other country in the world, according to data from the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD). In 2015, the U.S. spent an average of $11,889 per student on elementary and secondary education, compared to the OECD average of $9,616. When it comes to higher education, the U.S. spends an average of $26,591 per student, compared to the OECD average of $17,415.
The U.S. is not alone in its high level of education spending — several other countries also spend significantly more on education than the OECD average. The five BRICS countries — Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa — all rank in the top 10 for education spending as a percentage of GDP. Out of these five countries, China has the highest level of education spending at 4.7% of GDP, followed by Brazil at 4%.
How has education spending in the U.S. changed over time?
In 2020, the U.S. is projected to spend $1.3 trillion on education at all levels, which is an increase of $117 billion from 2019. This includes spending on elementary and secondary schools, as well as colleges and universities. Education spending has grown significantly over the past few decades, and this trend is expected to continue.
In the United States, spending on education has been on the rise in recent years. However, spending on pre-kindergarten (Pre-K) programs has not seen the same level of growth.
In 2018, total education spending was $1.08 trillion. Of that, $617 billion was spent on elementary and secondary education, while $102 billion went to early childhood education. This means that early childhood education made up just 9.4% of total education spending in the U.S. That number has remained relatively stagnant over the past decade, even as total education spending has increased by 21%.
One reason for this may be that Pre-K programs are not universally available in the United States. In 2018, only 27% of 3- and 4-year-olds were enrolled in a public Pre-K program. This number has remained unchanged since 2010, despite efforts by some states to expand access to these programs.
It is also worth noting that, while Pre-K enrollment has not increased much in recent years, it is still higher than it was a decade ago. In 2008, only 21% of 3- and 4- year olds were enrolled in a public Pre-K program.
In the 2020 fiscal year, U.S. spending on elementary and secondary education is projected to be $786 billion. This represents a significant increase from previous years, when spending hovered around $700 billion. Much of this increase can be attributed to the rise in costs associated with special education and English language learner programs. In addition, states have been investing more money in early childhood education programs in recent years.
When looked at on a per-pupil basis, K-12 spending has increased fairly steadily over the past few decades. In the 2020 fiscal year, each student is projected to cost taxpayers an average of $12,612. This number has been steadily rising since the early 1990s, when per-pupil spending was less than $7,000 in inflation-adjusted dollars.
Despite the increases in K-12 spending, many experts believe that more needs to be done to improve education in the United States. In particular, there is a large achievement gap between affluent students and those from low-income backgrounds. While some progress has been made in recent years in narrowing this gap, it still remains a significant problem.
It should be noted that K-12 education spending makes up a relatively small portion of overall government spending. In the 2020 fiscal year, it is projected to account for just 10 percent of all federal expenditures.
Higher education spending
Over the past few decades, there has been a shift in educational spending in the United States. In 1970, elementary and secondary education made up the majority of education spending, while spending on higher education was relatively low. In 2020, the opposite is true – higher education spending makes up the majority of total education spending in the United States.
This shift can be attributed to a number of factors. Firstly, the cost of attending college has skyrocketed in recent years. In 1970, the average cost of attending a four-year public university was just over $2,000 per year (adjusted for inflation). Today, that figure is closer to $10,000 per year. As a result, more government money has been funneled into financial aid programs like Pell Grants and student loans.
Secondly, the number of Americans pursuing higher education has increased substantially in recent years. In 1970, just over one-third of Americans had completed four or more years of college. Today, that figure is close to two-thirds. This increase is due in part to the growing importance of a college degree in today’s job market.
Interestingly, despite these trends, total education spending as a percentage of GDP has remained relatively flat over the past few decades. In 1970, education spending made up 5% of GDP; in 2020, it is projected to account for just over 4%. This is due to other factors such as healthcare and defense spending growing at a faster rate than education spending.
How do different states compare when it comes to education spending?
The United States spends more on education than any other country in the world. In 2020, the U.S. is projected to spend $1.0 trillion on education, which is 4.7% of its GDP. This is more than double the amount that was spent in 1980. When it comes to how the states compare, Wyoming, Vermont, and North Dakota are the top three states in terms of education spending as a percentage of their state budgets.
The United States spends more on education than any other country in the world, but that doesn’t mean that all states are spending equally. In fact, there is a significant disparity between the amount of money that states spend per student.
According to data from the National Center for Education Statistics, the state with the highest per-student spending is New York, at $19,818. The state with the lowest per-student spending is Utah, at $6,576. That’s a difference of more than $13,000 per student!
Here’s a breakdown of per-student spending for all 50 states:
State Per-student spending
New York $19,818
District of Columbia $17,953
New Jersey $14,416
Rhode Island $13,779
In total, the U.S. spends $1.07 trillion on education at all levels combined. Of that, elementary and secondary education make up the bulk of spending, at $646 billion. That’s followed by post-secondary education, which costs $419 billion. Other educational spending, including early childhood education and special education, rounds out the total at $102 billion.