New Survey Shows College More In Demand Than Ever
By Tiffany Danitz, Staff Writer
The days when a high school diploma was the key to unlocking the American dream of social and financial success are over. Most Americans now believe a college degree is the only way to make it into the middle class, according to a new survey released by Public Agenda.
Public Agenda, a non-profit, non-partisan public opinion research and education organization acting in collaboration with several independent nonprofit organizations, found that nearly 87 percent of Americans believe a college education is as important as a high school diploma used to be.
"This is a dramatic shift in Americans' views about higher education. Back in 1993, a majority of Americans thought that too many people were going to college," said John Immerwahr, a senior research fellow at Public Agenda and author of "Great Expectations: How the Public and Parents White, African American, and Hispanic View Higher Education."
The "Great Expectations" survey of 1,015 Americans, found that Hispanic parents (65 percent) and African American parents (47 percent) placed more emphasis on the importance of a college education than do white parents (33 percent).
But the ability to afford higher education was a worry for all income groups. Nearly half of those surveyed said that low income families are hit the hardest and have the least opportunity for college, but 16 percent said that the middle class, who can't get loans as easily, struggles most and has the least opportunity.
While a majority of the respondents believe they will find a way to pay for their children's college, two thirds would like universities to hold down their costs. Because the public sees higher education as a necessity and they worry about the rising cost, the authors' said this signals a potential hot button political issue for the future.
They urge elected leaders, college administrators and business leaders to work together and ensure greater access to and better quality of higher education.
The full report is being released Wednesday. It can be found on the web at: www.highereducation.org.