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Americans Say Making A Decent Living Should Not Depend on Degree: Survey

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Americans believe that higher education may benefit people economically, particularly in their home states, according to a new survey by USA Today and nonprofit Public Agenda. However, they disagree on whether college is worthwhile given the price tag. In fact, young adults without degrees tend to be more dubious.

The survey of 1,662 adults was conducted online in May. According to the report, over 80 percent of Americans — regardless of political affiliation, racial, or ethnic background — are concerned about rising tuition costs and student loan debt in a system they believe is rigged to favor the wealthy. 

The majority view higher education as time-consuming and stuck in the past. Only 50 percent believe that higher education supports democracy, though most agree that it helps people become informed, engaged citizens.

Among public higher education institutions, community colleges are seen as providing value for students and taxpayers. The majority of respondents said the primary goals of their state’s public higher education institutions should be to prepare students for careers and to provide a well-rounded education.

“No, you don’t need a bachelor’s degree to get a good job, but your best shot at a good job is a bachelor’s degree,” director of the Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce, George Carnevale, told USA Today. “What you see here is a failure to inform the public.”

Support for Affordable Higher Education

The poll also showed that majorities from all political parties and races strongly agree on a wide range of strategies for lowering the cost of public higher education.

67 percent of respondents believe that many qualified people do not have the means to attend college and want state investments to support Black, Latino, and low-income students. 

These include increased oversight of public institutions particularly good at assisting Black and Latino students in completing their degrees, providing additional resources to those that aren’t, and offering effective financial aid and counsel to Black and Latino students.

Click here to read the full survey.

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