Facing What Ails Us Head On: Public Consensus on a New Direction for Higher Education

Once viewed as a sound investment in a better life, many Americans now see higher education as an expensive gamble. Declining enrollments and eroding public and institutional support are plaguing our nation’s postsecondary institutions right now, and the public is continuing to lose faith that a college education is worth the money and time or that it pays off in the job market. 

Americans want college and universities to prioritize three outcomes: increased affordability, equal opportunity and career-relevant skills. Yet research shows that higher ed is consistently falling short: regardless of race, ethnicity, income, geographical location or political affiliation, the public is telling us that higher education is increasingly inaccessible, unaffordable and disconnected from the skills needed to get and keep good jobs.

Now is the time for a reimagining of what the college experience should be to serve today’s students. Colleges and universities, policymakers and policy influencers must internalize public sentiment and uncomfortable data and act decisively, guided by the public’s vision for how higher education can better support a more just and prosperous nation.

A Common Ground Agenda to Develop Talent + Ensure Opportunity

To access our latest brief, Facing What Ails Us Head On: Public Consensus on a New Direction for Higher Education, click here.


America’s Hidden Common Ground on Public Higher Education: What’s Wrong and How to Fix it

By Public Agenda

Americans think higher education can help people economically, particularly in their home states, according to this Public Agenda/USA TODAY Hidden Common Ground (HCG) research. But by a variety of measures, Americans question whether the benefits of college are worth the cost. Young people without degrees are especially skeptical. Based on a nationally representative survey fielded in May 2022 and focus groups conducted in January 2022, the research finds that Americans across partisan lines worry about high tuition and student debt in an economy that most think is rigged to benefit the wealthy.

Read more: https://www.publicagenda.org/reports/americas-hidden-common-ground-on-public-higher-education/ 


Is College Worth It? Americans Say They Value Higher Education, but it’s too Expensive for Many

By Chris Quintana

Featured in USA Today

Americans on both ends of the political spectrum agree: earning a bachelor’s degree may help people find good jobs and could improve society, but attending college can be too expensive and time-consuming for working adults. Many say the American economy is rigged in favor of the rich and influential, according to a new poll from USA TODAY and Public Agenda. 

Read more: https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/education/2022/07/11/colleges-student-loan-debt-high-cost/7768824001/


Four-Year Degree Worth The Cost? Americans Value Education, but Government Should Pick Up the Tab

By Natasha Quadlin and Brian Powell

Featured in USA Today

Opinion piece examining recently release poll data and report from Public Agenda finds that Americans are more likely to endorse government-funded education than a decade ago, a perspective that reflects high cost of four-year schools and ability to make a good living without attending one.

Read more: https://www.usatoday.com/story/opinion/2022/07/11/americans-value-education-government-pay/7820194001/ 


Public Opinion on Value of Higher Education Remains Mixed

by Megan Brink

Featured in Inside Higher Ed

New public opinion survey shows Democrats and Republicans alike are pessimistic of the long-term benefits of a college degree. Partisan divides still exist in solutions to address the rising cost of education and the role race plays in limiting access to college.

Read more: https://www.insidehighered.com/news/2022/07/12/most-americans-skeptical-value-college-degree


Cost of College, Student Debt has Many Americans Questioning College

Discussion clip with Chris Quintana of USA Today 

A new poll from USA TODAY and Public Agenda found nearly half of Americans question whether the economic benefits of a college degree is worth the cost. Listen Below.


My four-year degree was the expectation. My trade school training actually got me my job.

by Samantha Cortese Taunton

Featured in USA Today 

First-person account about the need for affordable and flexible degree options that provide an actual return on investment to students instead of insurmountable debt. The disconnect between higher ed credentials and workplace sector gains is turning young people away from college at an astounding rate, and the lack of communication about available options hinders students’ access to good jobs and economic mobility.

Read more: https://www.usatoday.com/story/opinion/voices/2022/07/13/rethink-trade-schools-higher-education/7823391001/


Here’s What Schools Should Do About Lack of Faith in College Education and Its High Cost

by Jamie Merisotis, Lumina Foundation

Featured in USA Today

Are colleges stuck in the past and no longer beneficial for those seeking a good living? According to a recent survey, yes. Institutions of higher education must focus on outcomes and parental concerns to combat plummeting public confidence in postsecondary value.

Read more: https://www.usatoday.com/story/opinion/2022/07/17/college-education-high-cost-faith/7832657001/


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