Americans See College as Important, But Too Costly

By Caralee J. Adams — November 30, 2012 1 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

A new national survey finds most Americans recognize higher education is necessary for getting ahead, but many question its value and find the cost is often a significant barrier.

Seventy percent of Americans believe higher education is “extremely” or “very” important to achieving the American Dream, according to the poll of about 1,250 adults interviewed by phone and online in October by FTI Consulting for Northeastern University in Boston.

But the increasing cost of college is prompting many to look carefully at the value of the investment. Just 39 percent rate the U.S. higher education system as providing an “excellent” or “good” value for the money, and 60 percent say its value is “fair” or “poor.”

When asked about what keeps Americans from getting a college degree, 86 percent responded that paying for college was the biggest hurdle. Other responses included difficulty balancing work and family, lack of information, difficulty navigating financial aid, and too little time.

Nearly 64 percent of adults under 30 polled indicated concerns about college costs caused a close friend or family member to postpone or forego attending college.

Assessing the big picture, 51 percent says the state of higher education in America is “excellent” or “good,” while 46 percent consider it “fair” or “poor,” according to the Northeastern poll.

The survey results released this week also show that 83 percent feel higher education should innovate if the United States is to maintain its global leadership. In particular, the respondents mentioned the need for more flexibility, online/hybrid education options and opportunities for experiential learning, entrepreneurship, and global experiences in college.

Younger respondents embrace online learning more than their older peers, according to the poll results. While 61 percent of respondents under age 30 say an online degree provides a similar quality of education to a traditional degree, 49 percent of all those polled felt that way. Also, 68 percent of younger adults and 53 percent of respondents as a whole say an online degree in the next five to seven years will be just as recognized and accepted among employers as a traditional degree.

A version of this news article first appeared in the College Bound blog.