These statistics speak for themselves.

Education: HIGHER

COLOR CODING
GreenRanked first for statistic
RedRanked last for statistic
 Gross EnrollmentOECD Skills OutlookRanked Universities Per
Tertiary AttainmentExpenditure per Tertiary StudentMean Literacy ProficiencyMean Numerancy ProficiencyNumber Think TanksThink Tanks per CapitaQS RankingsTimes Rankings
Australia462.0280.4267.6421.8115.914.6
Canada572.4273.5265.51002.817.37.6
Denmark40270.8278.3519.108.912.5
France351.5262.1254.22033.035.25.1
Germany291.2269.8271.72182.705.65.8
Italy180.9250.5247.11141.834.86.9
Japan511.4296.2288.21281.013.50.9
Netherlands371.7284.0280.3834.867.67.6
Norway431.7278.4278.3224.147.59.4
Sweden431.6279.2279.1909.048.011.0
United Kingdom461.9272.5261.73214.8911.614.9
United States472.6269.8252.818715.734.85.3

SOURCES

Tertiary attainment: OECD

Education at a Glance 2018.
Tertiary attainment as a percent for age group 25 – 64 for 2018 OECD report. Tertiary education is university and post-secondary vocational education.

Expenditure per tertiary student: OECD

Education at a Glance 2018.
Government expenditure in tertiary education, % of GDP 2015.

Survey of Adult Skills 2015 (columns 3 – 4): OECD Skills Outlook

For 16 – 65 year olds.

Number of Think Tanks: 2018 Global Go To Think Tank Index Report

Per capita (per 1,000,000) calculated from country population data taken from the CIA World Factbook.

QS World University Rankings

Number of ranked universities per 10,000,000.

Times Higher Education World University Rankings 2019

Number of ranked universities per 10,000,000.

NOTES

“Americans Think We Have the World’s Best Colleges. We Don’t.”

Kevin Carey
June 28, 2014.
New York Times. The U.S. is home to some of the best ranking universities in the world but this does not mean U.S. universities are on average the best. The OECD published a study in 2013 on its Program for the International Assessment of Adult Competencies (Piaac) which is comparable to PISA but for adults ages 16 – 65. The U.S. still ranks low compared to other developed countries.
“Only 18 percent of American adults with bachelor’s degrees score at the top two levels of numeracy, compared with the international average of 24 percent. Over one-third of American bachelor’s degree holders failed to reach Level 3 on the five-level Piaac scale, which means that they cannot perform math-related tasks that ‘require several steps and may involve the choice of problem-solving strategies.’”

“Why Is College in America So Expensive?”

Amanda Ripley
September 11, 2018.
The Atlantic. The U.S. ranks No. 1 in the world for spending on student-welfare services (housing, meals, health care, transportation), classified by the OECD as ancillary services. Even if all ancillary services were zeroed, the U.S. would still spend more per college student than almost any other country. Most of college spending goes to routine educational operations, costs adding up to $23,000 per student per year, more than twice what Finland, Sweden, or Germany spends. In addition, the large presence of a public college system means the high cost has much to do with politics.