What does the American public think about higher education?
Public Agenda has released some new polling data, and it’s well worth the time of any educator looking into public attitudes, especially for funding. The results go against some stereotypes, and don’t line up with what academics think are problems and solutions.
To begin with, last month PA found that American belief in the necessity of higher ed for a successful life has declined compared to the past few years. Indeed, more people think “there are many ways to succeed in today’s world without a college degree”. See how this played out after the 2008 financial crash:
Why? Partly because of the loan specter and the job market: “46 percent of Americans say college is a questionable investment due to high student loans and limited job opportunities.”
Two more datapoints show serious skepticism about American post-secondary institutions:
69 percent say there are many people who are qualified but lack the opportunity to go to college.
59 percent say colleges today are like most businesses and care mainly about the bottom line.
Access and cynicism. Is this really how the majority of Americans view their colleges and universities?
There’s more. Public Agenda followed up with questions about what causes or could solve these problems. The biggest problems weren’t reductions in state funding, nor even odious “kids these days” finger-wagging at young people. No, the most popular culprit is… high school:
The solutions we prefer tend to be job-focused. Read the whole thing for more.
A few thoughts:
- Public higher ed is doing a lousy job of convincing Americans to support us, either financially or conceptually.
- It’s interesting to contrast faculty who think higher ed is too job-focused with a population that thinks we aren’t job-focused enough.
- I’ll say it again. I’m glad that bashing kids these days (i.e., Boomers acting with a supreme lack of irony awareness) is more smoke than fire.
- People would rather blame high schools than families or students for preparation issues.
- It’s interesting to compare with this early 2015 Gallup poll or this Allstate/National Journal Heartland Monitor Poll one from last October.
What do you think?