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Survey: 66% of adults say college doesn’t meet needs of today’s students

Survey: 66% of adults say college doesn’t meet needs of today’s students

Higher Ed Dive 

Lilah Burke
August 4, 2022
Dive Brief:
  • Adults across party lines are concerned about the high tuition, student debt and time commitments they associate with getting a college education, according to polling results released in July by Public Agenda, a nonprofit research organization. Two-thirds of respondents said they see colleges as “stuck in the past” and not serving the needs of today’s students.
  • Respondents were only moderately supportive of increasing public funding for higher ed generally. But they strongly supported specific state initiatives to expand college access and affordability, and 89% said all high school graduates should have an equal opportunity to get a college education, regardless of race, ethnicity or income.
  • Findings suggest that institutions may need to change what they’re offering to the public, while policymakers might have success winning public buy-in by being specific about plans and initiatives, said David Schleifer, vice president and director of research at Public Agenda.
Dive Insight:
While 86% of respondents said they believe that higher education can help working people advance their careers, just 64% said they believe people with only a high school diploma would make a better living if they had a college education. That is despite the fact that the earnings bump from a college degree is well-documented in data, with earnings for a bachelor’s degree holder averaging 84% more than the earnings of a high school graduate, according to research from the Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce.
“People have a lot of really conflicted feelings about higher education,” Schleifer said. “People recognize the potential benefits, but they also recognize a lot of ways that higher ed as it currently exists isn’t necessarily working for people. It’s expensive. It takes a long time.”
At the policy level, the survey found more support for specific state initiatives aimed at affordability and job outcomes — such as creating more workforce and training programs, increasing financial aid for low-income college students, and offering interest-free student loans — than it did for general statements about increasing funding to public education.
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