George Leef of the Martin Center highlights a search for the best higher education around the globe.

Many Americans crow that our higher education system is “the envy of the world,” even though it’s nearly impossible to point to any proof of that. In truth, however, some Americans look down on our system, saying that it is clearly inferior to that of other nations, such as Japan and Finland.

A recent study published by the American Enterprise Institute, “International Higher Education Rankings” by Jason Delisle and Preston Cooper prompts my title. The authors have undertaken a comprehensive analysis of 35 advanced nations, examining their higher education systems along three metrics: attainment, resources, and subsidies.

In the study, a nation’s attainment score depends on the percentage of its population that has earned some kind of postsecondary education credential. Its resources score is a measurement of its per capital spending on higher education relative to its economic capacity (GDP). Finally, its subsidy score is based on government higher education spending relative to the nation’s entire higher education spending—i.e., how much of the cost is borne by government compared with costs borne by students, families, and other parties.

So, which countries score highest on those metrics?

Delisle and Cooper find that the top five on attainment are, in order, South Korea, Canada, Japan, Ireland, and Australia. They are most successful in getting people through some tertiary education program. (The United States ranks 11th.)

The top five on subsidies are Finland, Norway, Luxembourg, Denmark, and Austria. Those countries do the most to keep the cost of higher education low for students. (The United States ranks 31st.)