Higher Education

They still value a degree, but Americans increasingly question the cost

Fifty-eight percent in new poll think colleges put their own interests ahead of students’

Three-quarters of Americans think it’s easier to succeed in life with a college degree than without one, but only 43 percent say private, nonprofit universities and colleges are worth the cost, according to a new poll.

Fifty-eight percent say colleges and universities put their own interests ahead of those of students, and only one in four believe the higher-education system is working well, the survey, commissioned by the foundation New America, found.

It’s the latest in a series of reports suggesting public approval of colleges is foundering.

Nearly half of people surveyed last year by Public Agenda said higher education is no longer necessarily a good investment. A Gallup poll found that about the same proportion of university and college graduates were less than certain their degrees were worth the money.

Poll: Colleges put their interests first

National survey of 1,600 people for the foundation New America by Ipsos

Nearly 60 percent of people in the Public Agenda survey thought colleges care mostly about their bottom lines and nearly 60 percent that having a college education is no longer really necessary.

The new poll, conducted for New America by the market-research firm Ipsos in late February and early March, echoes this.

In it, only slightly more than half of the 1,600 people surveyed say they think public and private, nonprofit four-year institutions put their students first.

Slightly more than half say there are plenty of well-paying jobs that don’t require a college degree.

But four out of five Americans say most people who enroll in college benefit.

Community colleges fare best, with 83 percent saying they contribute to a strong workforce, 82 percent that they are worth the cost, 80 percent that they prepare people to be successful, and 62 percent that they put their students first.

Americans are glum about their prospects for doing better than previous generations. Nearly two-thirds of those who are college age say they think it will be harder for them than for their parents to find a good-paying job, and nearly 60 percent that it will be harder to afford a family.

Letters

Jon Marcus

Jon Marcus, higher-education editor, has written about higher education for the Washington Post, USA Today, Time, the Boston Globe, Washington Monthly, is North America higher-education… See Archive

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I'm not sure that this isn't the most serious problem in our society today, given that we have quite a few. We are, in effect, "eating our young," with the significant amount of student loans currently under repayment. What good does it do to have such a ridiculous amount of debt burden on our young?

At the same time, colleges and universities aren't reducing tuition, most are increasing fees. Sadly this was not a problem until it became so easy to receive student loans, backed by the government. As soon as colleges and universities saw what they could charge, based on how much students could receive, backed by a lock to repayment based on the government accountability, not the college or university, it became a "feeding frenzy." Higher ed is still in this feeding frenzy, increasing faculty salaries and building more brick and mortar facilities. This model is not sustainable in any form. Salaries and facilities can't continue to increase, carried on the backs of our students. The "food bank" of more bigger better amounts of student loans based on increasing tuition and fees is very quickly going to mold. Our society has been built upon a strong higher education system. That system is now crumbling under the weight of student loans. Time for a change!

- from Patrick Faverty, May 15, 2017