DataPoints: Voters value higher ed (with an asterisk)


The American public may have little trust in U.S. higher education, but it recognizes its value, according to a new report from the centrist think tank Third Way. However, that view may be changing.

A spring survey of 1,500 registered voters nationwide found that Americans have an overwhelmingly favorable view of trade schools (77%), public community colleges (75%) and, to a lesser extent, four-year colleges and universities (65%). Only 37% view for-profit institutions favorably.

Despite the promising figures, 65% of voters believe fewer high school graduates will pursue higher education in the next decade because it doesn’t offer the same value and advantage in the job market as it once did, according to the report.

“This should ring the alarm for higher education advocates and institutional leaders that approximately two-thirds of voters see the value of higher education depreciating over the next 10 years,” the report says.

The survey also gauged the public’s view of the federal government’s role in higher education. About six in 10 voters (62%) indicated the government should provide basic guardrails to ensure students don’t take out loans to attend college that would leave them worse off than when they started, the report says. Seven in 10 believe that college programs should have to demonstrate their students can earn enough money to pay back their student loans in order to receive federal student aid, with nearly two-thirds (64%) indicating that institutions shouldn’t be able to access such aid if their graduation rate is less than 25%.

“Vast majorities of voters believe that policymakers should put the focus on reforms that ensure Americans can graduate with the skills they need for good, high-paying jobs,” the report says.

About the Author

Matthew Dembicki
Matthew Dembicki edits Community College Daily and serves as associate vice president of communications for the American Association of Community Colleges.
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