Home / Reports / State of the Union / Education


Eighth-grade math and reading proficiency fell between 2019 and 2022 to the lowest rates in at least 15 years.

The share of eighth graders at or above a proficient reading level dropped from 34% to 31%. For math, it dropped from 34% to 26%.


The public-school student-teacher ratio dropped from 15.9 in fall 2019 to 15.4 in fall 2020 and remained unchanged in 2021.

This is partly due to declining school enrollment during the pandemic. Several factors affect the student-teacher ratio, including class sizes, the number of classes educators teach, and the number of special education teachers.


Public schools spent an average of $16,280 per student in the 2020–2021 school year, more than any previous year after adjusting for inflation.

This was up 3.5% from the previous school year, the largest single-year increase since 1988-1989. Expenditures in 2019-2020 and 2020-2021 included funds allocated through pandemic relief legislation such as the CARES Act. Many factors influence per-pupil spending, including salaries, benefits, and supplies across functions such as instruction, administration, and operations and maintenance.


Of the students who started high school in 2011, 24% completed a four-year college degree by 2021. Another 13% had enrolled in a four-year college within one year of high school graduation but had not completed their degree.

Among Black and Hispanic students who entered high school in 2011, the percentage who earned a four-year degree by 2021 was lower than the overall student rate — less than 15% for either group.


The median student loan balance per household decreased between 2019 and 2022, but it dropped most for Black-led households, falling 25% to $27,070 in 2022.

However, prior to 2022, it had been increasing faster for Black-led households than households overall. Black-led household student loan balances rose 66% between 2010 and 2019, compared to 41% for all families.


Forty-eight percent of the population ages 25 and older has a college degree.

Asian Americans have the nation’s highest levels of education; as of 2022, two-thirds had at least an associate degree.


On average, people whose highest level of education is a bachelor’s degree earned $1,493 per week in 2023, roughly 66% more than workers with a high school diploma.

Earnings for workers with some college or an associate degree have fallen since 2000, while increasing for all other educational attainment categories. Earnings for people without a high school diploma are up most, $708 per week (up 11%), but remain $462 per week (39%), lower than overall median earnings.

Continue exploring the State of the Union

Explore more of USAFacts