Is College Worth It? Survey Finds Only 36% of Americans Have Confidence in Higher Education | News, Sports, Jobs

Is College Worth It? Survey Finds Only 36% of Americans Have Confidence in Higher Education | News, Sports, Jobs


Is College Worth It? Survey Finds Only 36% of Americans Have Confidence in Higher Education | News, Sports, Jobs

FILE – Students walk on the campus of Boston College, Monday, April 29, 2024, in Boston. Americans are increasingly skeptical about the value and cost of college, with most saying they believe the U.S. higher education system is “headed in the wrong direction,” according to a new poll. (AP Photo/Charles Krupa, File)

Americans are increasingly skeptical about the value and cost of a college education, with most saying they feel the U.S. higher education system is headed for ruin. “Wrong way,” according to a new poll.

Overall, only 36% of adults say they have a “great deal” or “a lot” of trust in higher education, according to the report released Monday by Gallup and the Lumina Foundation. That level of trust has steadily declined from 57% in 2015.

Some of these sentiments are reflected in declining enrollments, as colleges grapple with the fallout from the student loan crisis, worry about high tuition costs and engage in political debates over the way they teach about race and other topics.

The dimming view of whether college is worth the time and money holds true across all demographics, including gender, age and political affiliation. Among Republicans, the share of respondents with high confidence in higher education has fallen 36 percentage points over the past decade, far more than it has fallen among Democrats or independents.

“It’s so expensive, and I don’t think colleges teach people what they need to know to get a job,” says Randy Hill, 59, a registered Republican in Connecticut and a driver for a car company. His cousin plans to pursue a welding degree after graduating from high school. “You graduate, you’re up to your ears in debt, you can’t find a job, and then you can’t pay it off. What’s the point?”

The overall finding of the June 2024 survey — that 36% of adults have strong confidence in higher education — is unchanged from the year before. But what worries researchers is the shift in opinion at the bottom, with fewer Americans saying they “some” trust and more reporting “very few” And “no.” This year’s results show that almost as many people have little or no trust (32%) as people with a lot of trust.

Experts say a smaller number of college graduates could exacerbate labor shortages in industries such as health care and information technology. For those who don’t go to college, that often means lower lifetime earnings — 75 percent lower than those who earn a bachelor’s degree, according to Georgetown University’s Center on Education and the Workforce. And during an economic downturn, those without degrees are more likely to lose their jobs.

“It is sad to see that trust has not grown at all,” says Courtney Brown, vice president at Lumina, an education nonprofit focused on increasing the number of students who pursue college after high school. “What I find shocking is that the number of people with little or no self-confidence is actually increasing.”

This year, new, detailed questions have been added to the survey to gain insight into the reasons why trust is declining.

Nearly a third of respondents say that the university “too expensive,” while 24% believe that students are not being properly educated or are not learning what they need to be successful.

The survey did not specifically address this year’s protests against the war in Gaza that have divided many college campuses, but political views weighed heavily on the findings. Respondents expressed concerns about indoctrination, political bias and that universities are too liberal these days. Of those who lack confidence, 41% cited political agendas as a reason.



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