New Survey Highlights What Americans Think About Higher Education

September 18, 2019

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Title: Varying Degrees 2019: New America’s Third Annual Survey on Higher Education

Source: New America

Author: Rachel Fishman, Sophie Nguyen, Alejandra Acosta, and Ashley Clark.

New America has released its most recent version of the Varying Degrees Survey that describes how Americans perceive higher education in 2019.

The survey covers a variety of topics such as the role of higher education after high school, the cost of college, perceptions about federal and state support for higher education, and the role of free college and debt-free proposals in the next presidential and congressional election in 2020. To conduct the survey, 2,020 individuals ages 18 and older were queried through an online platform.

Key findings highlighted by the report include:

  • 62 percent of Americans think that a high school diploma or GED® may suffice to find well-paying, stable jobs. At the same time, 78 percent believe that education after high school has a good return on investment for students, and 90 percent think that it leads to upward economic mobility.
  • A large majority of Americans (66 percent) reported being unsatisfied with the current state of higher education and want change. Examples of such changes include increases in government funding and the elimination of admission preference practices at elite colleges and universities.
  • 91 percent of Americans want more transparency and accountability in higher education. Individuals want to know how institutions fare with respect to student outcomes and other indicators of quality.
  • 67 percent of Americans will weight how a candidate approaches free college or debt-free proposals in their voting decision in the 2020 elections. In particular, 56 percent say they are willing to support a candidate who endorses free college tuition proposals.

The survey also includes a section called “Perceptions versus Reality” that shows how perceptions of some student outcomes and student debt facts (e.g., enrollment by degree type, graduation, average earnings, sources of consumer debt, loan take-up) differ from actual data reported by sources such as the U.S. Department of Education, the Bureau of Labor Statistics, and the Federal Reserve Bank of New York.

To read the full survey report, visit the New America Varying Degrees 2019 website.

To explore the data, click here

—Maria Claudia Soler

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