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New OECD Report Identifies Significant Shortcomings in U.S. Higher Education


Application of national standard recommended to increase value of credentialing programs

The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) has released a major new report examining ongoing trends in the U.S. system of higher education, revealing a number of troubling developments requiring an effective response from U.S. government agencies, colleges and universities, and other affected stakeholders. Titled "A Skills beyond School Review of the United States," the report was unveiled on July 10 before a group of more than 200 stakeholders and journalists at the offices of the New America Foundation in Washington, DC.

The report, which draws on case studies and other data gathered in a number of different states, finds that the current U.S. higher education system suffers from major structural problems that have resulted in diminished demand for higher education and increased inefficiency in the U.S. economy. In particular, the report highlights the issues caused by the disconnect between federal funding for higher education and the educational results produced by the colleges and universities that benefit from such funding; the lack of transparent information available to prospective and incoming students regarding the average financial returns associated with selection of a given university or academic program; and the relative weakness of basic academic skills, such as reading, possessed by many U.S. high school students, complicating the transition to college.

To address some of these issues, the report calls for the significant expansion of specialized educational programs for U.S. high school students that provide technical and career-focused educational opportunities. The OECD also recommends that the federal government explicitly link an institute's eligibility for federal funding to the educational outcomes for graduates, with the goal of encouraging increased accountability in regards to students' post-college financial situations.

In addition, the report calls for reliance on a quality standard for work credentialing certifications that would apply nationwide, providing both students and employers across the country with greater confidence and transparency regarding the effectiveness and financial value of different educational and technical programs.

"ANSI is supportive of the OECD conclusion and recommendation to obtain better data on both certifications and certificates," said Roy Swift, Ph.D., senior program director of the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) Personnel Credentialing Accreditation Program. "When it comes to credentialing, the terms ‘certificate' and ‘certification' are often used interchangeably even though they are distinct and serve different purposes. The majority of the organizations that certify individuals or issue certificates in the U.S. would not meet any national or international standard such as ANSI/ISO/IEC 17024 for certification and ASTM E2659 for certificate programs. Reliance on these standards is critical to increasing quality and transparency of certificates and certification in the United States, leading to a more qualified American workforce."

To access the full report, click here.

For more information about the OECD and its activities, please visit its official website. To learn more about ANSI's Personnel Credentialing Accreditation program, click here.


Jana Zabinski

Senior Director, Communications & Public Relations


[email protected]

Beth Goodbaum

Journalist/Communications Specialist


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