Americans grow more skeptical of higher education

Students worry a college degree won't get them a good job

A number of polls conducted or released during the presidential campaign season show that Americans have waning confidence in the value and leadership of colleges, Jon Marcus reports for the Hechinger Report

 For many respondents, concerns about affordability and access were a high priority. 

Value is more important now than ever before when selecting colleges

For example, about half of respondents in Public Agenda's August survey said higher education isn't a sound investment because of the amount of debt students take on to get a degree. The survey also found that:

  • 70% of respondents said qualified candidates don't have the opportunity to attend college;
  • Nearly 60% of respondents said colleges are most concerned with their bottom line;
  • Nearly 60% of respondents said a college education isn't necessary for success; and
  • 44% of respondents said colleges are wasteful and don't run efficiently. 

The Gallup-Purdue Index released in February also found that college graduates aren't sure whether their degrees are worth the financial investment. In addition, nearly half of those who borrowed money for college said they had to postpone graduate school because of debt, one-third delayed purchasing a home, and one-quarter put their dreams of starting a business on hold. 

Why prospective students are so price sensitive right now

The outlook is particularly bleak among low-income students, according to an annual survey of 141,000 U.S. freshmen released by the Higher Education Research Institute at the University of California, Los Angeles. One-third of respondents said they couldn't afford their first-choice institution, and almost 90% said their choice of institution was based on cost.

Meanwhile, a record 60% of respondents said they were getting degrees because they wanted good jobs—not for the sake of learning (Marcus, Hechinger Report, 11/7). 

13 ready-to-use resources for improving career prep on campus


Next in Today's Briefing

The Dalai Lama: How Americans can heal amid 'anger and great discontent'

Next Briefing

  • Manage Your Events
  • Saved webpages and searches
  • Manage your subscriptions
  • Update personal information
  • Invite a colleague