Second thoughts about higher ed choices

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More than half of U.S. adults (51 percent) would change at least one aspect of their postsecondary education – major, school or type of degree – if they could do it over again, reports a new study from the Strada Education Network and Gallup.

Individuals who complete a vocational, trade or technical program, however, are more positive about their education decisions than are individuals with an associate or bachelor’s degree, according to the study.

Overall, 36 percent of U.S. adults said they would choose a different major, 28 percent would attend a different institution and 12 percent would pursue a different degree type.

Among associate degree holders, 36 percent would choose a different major, 30 percent would attend a different institution and 23 percent would choose a different degree. Among those who completed a vocational, technical or trade program, the percentages are, respectively, 31, 35 and 19.

Uninformed decisions

According to the report, individuals’ desires to make different choices are driven less by the institutions they attended than by having made decisions without complete information about future employment opportunities, earning potential or the long-term effect of student debt.

Among the findings:

  • STEM graduates at all education levels are the least likely to report they would make different education decisions.
  • Only 30 percent of those who earned an associate degree in a STEM field said they would have picked a different major if they could do it all over again. That compares to 37 percent of people who earned an associate degree in business, 40 percent in liberal arts and 41 percent in public service who said they would have chosen a different major.
  • Individuals who took larger student loans to pay for undergraduate training are more likely to report they would make different education decisions.
  • Eighty-one percent of adults with an associate degree agree or strongly degree that they received a high-quality education. That compares with 81 percent of adults with technical, trade or vocational credentials and 89 percent of bachelor’s degree holders.
  • Overall, individuals who earned higher incomes are less likely to say they would have made different choices about their postsecondary education.

About the Author

Ellie Ashford
is associate editor of Community College Daily.