Title: Varying Degrees 2023: New America’s Seventh Annual Survey on Higher Education
Authors: Sophie Nguyen, Rachel Fishman, and Olivia Cheche
Source: New America
New America annually conducts its Varying Degrees survey to assess public opinion and regard for different aspects of higher education. The 2023 survey addressed five different issues: value, funding, accountability, equity and diversity, and online learning.
New America provides a data exploration tool, with the ability to change demographic breakdown for each survey question. Demographic categories include age, gender, race, household income, party identification, and student loan status, among others. The findings reveal a considerable partisan divide on value, funding, and equity and diversity.
Key findings from the report include:
- Although nearly two out of every five Americans (39 percent) believe that colleges and universities are having an overall negative impact on the status of the country, seven out of 10 believe that some form of postsecondary education is vital to be financially stable.
- The majority of respondents from both parties agree that individuals who have completed an undergraduate program contribute to a skilled workforce (91 percent of Democrats, 80 percent of Republicans), increase public tax revenue (85 percent of Democrats, 81 percent of Republicans), and support local businesses (87 percent of Democrats, 75 percent of Republicans). Regardless of party identification, most survey respondents agree on the individual and societal benefits of higher education.
- Survey data show there is a partisan gap in the role of state and federal governments to make postsecondary education opportunities more affordable. While Democrats agree (61 percent strongly agree, 33 percent somewhat agree) that state governments should allocate more tax dollars to expand affordability, a smaller proportion of Republicans agree with that statement (28 percent strongly agree, 40 percent somewhat agree).
- While three out of every five survey participants believe that the government is more responsible for funding higher education, analyzing results by party identification reveals that 64 percent of Republicans said students are more responsible for funding higher education, as they directly benefit from it. Meanwhile, only 20 percent of Democrats agree that students should be more responsible.
- A majority (58 percent) of Democrats strongly agree that state and federal governments are responsible for ensuring access to postsecondary education for groups that have been historically underrepresented, such as people of color and students with first-generation status, whereas about one in five (22 percent) Republicans strongly agree with that statement.
- Most respondents (69 percent) agree that colleges and universities should admit more students from diverse racial and ethnic backgrounds. When looking at party identification, most Democratic respondents (87 percent) agree with this statement; just over half of Republican participants (53 percent) also agree.