College Costs Seen Soaring Out of Reach, Poll Finds

October 24, 1984 3 min read

Nearly 80 percent of the adult Americans surveyed in a new nationwide poll said they believed college costs were rising at a rate that would “put them out of reach of the average person in the foreseeable future.”

Over 75 percent said they would be able to afford college tuition now “only with low-interest loans or grants.” And 61 percent said they did not think college costs were affordable “for the average person.’'

The poll, released last week as part of “National Higher Education Week,” was conducted for the Council for Advancement and Support of Education, the College Board, and the American Association of Community and Junior Colleges by Group Attitudes Corporation, a New York polling agency.

Favor Grants, Loans

Over 84 percent of those polled said they favored grants for low-income students (up from 70.6 percent in a similar 1982 poll); 85.9 percent said they were in favor of low-interest loans to middle-income students (down from 89.8 percent in the 1983 version of the poll); and 85.2 percent said they favored support for universities with a large percentage of low-income students (up from 66.4 percent in 1982).

A majority of the men and women polled said that federal aid to higher education should be increased (63.3 percent), while 26.3 percent said the aid level should remain as it is now and 7.4 percent said it should be decreased.

A similar majority said federal financial-aid programs for needy college students should be increased3(61 percent); 26.4 percent said they should stay at the current level and 8.6 percent said they should be cut.

More College Aid Backed

Only federal budget increases for medical research and medical care for the aged drew more support from those polled (about 71.5 percent of respondents) than student financial aid and general aid for colleges.

Support for increased aid to elementary and secondary schools ranked sixth (with 54.4 percent supporting an increase), behind funds to clean up the environment but ahead of postsecondary vocational training, aid to agriculture, school-lunch programs, and highway funding.

Of the 14 categories of programs in which those polled were asked to note their attitude toward increased federal funding, national defense and the space program ranked last, with 28.5 percent and 26.5 percent of the respondents, respectively, favoring expansion. About 38.5 percent of those polled favored retaining funding for those programs at current levels, and about 28.5 percent favored decreasing their funding.

The respondents were almost evenly divided on the question of which of the Presidential candidates would be most likely to give more attention and support to colleges and universities, with 37.7 percent favoring President Reagan, 38.6 percent backing Walter F. Mondale, and 23.2 percent unsure. Those with incomes of under $24,000 were more likely to support Mr. Mondale, while those with higher incomes favored the President.

College-admissions tests received mixed reviews in the poll, with 19 percent of the respondents rating them “very fair,” 37.1 percent “somewhat fair,” 19 percent “somewhat unfair,” 5.6 percent “very unfair,” and 19.3 percent “not sure.”

In general, according to a summary of the survey’s results, respondents with college degrees were more likely to find the tests fair than those with less than four years of college.

Those polled were evenly divided on the question of whether need or academic ability should determine a student’s eligibility for financial aid, with 37.3 percent saying abilities were most important, 36.7 percent saying financial need is primary, and 22.1 percent saying both are important.--mm

A version of this article appeared in the October 24, 1984 edition of Education Week as College Costs Seen Soaring Out of Reach, Poll Finds