Survey Results Show Most Americans View Higher Education As Important But Unaffordable

Quick Takeaways

  • Ninety-six percent of American adults think it is somewhat or very important for adults in the U.S. to have a degree or professional certificate beyond high school
  • Seventy-nine percent say they do not think education beyond high school is affordable for everyone in America who needs it
  • Eighty percent say institutions must change to better meet the needs of today’s students

By Brittany Hackett, Communications Staff 

An overwhelming majority of U.S. adults say it is important to have some kind of postsecondary education, though most do not think it is affordable for those who need it, according to a new survey from the Lumina Foundation and Gallup.

The survey, based on the responses of 1,533 adults nationwide, shows that 96 percent of respondents think it is somewhat or very important for adults in the U.S. to have a degree or professional certificate beyond high school, and 94 percent think it is somewhat or very important to increase the proportion of Americans with a postsecondary education. Notably, 72 percent of Hispanics and 73 percent of blacks said it is very important to increase the portion of Americans with postsecondary education, while only 56 percent of whites said so.

Ninety-three percent of respondents said that in the future, it will be just as important or more important to have postsecondary education in order to get a job, including 78 percent of Hispanics, 74 percent of blacks, and 67 percent of whites. 

Seventy-eight percent said that they strongly agree that having a good job is “essential” to having a high quality of life and only 19 percent said they are confident that they can land a good job with only a high school diploma. 

While the sentiment that higher education is more important than ever is strong, the belief that postsecondary education is unaffordable is almost as strong. Only 61 percent said that postsecondary education is available to anyone in the U.S. who needs it and 79 percent said that they do not think education beyond high school is affordable for everyone in America who needs it. This sentiment was expressed by 81 percent of blacks and 83 percent of whites, as well as 50 percent of Hispanics.

As in previous research, price remains a strong consideration for Americans looking into higher education, with 68 percent of respondents saying that price is a very important factor when selecting an institution. Seventy-nine percent said that financial assistance is a very important factor and 70 percent said that the average amount of student loan debt they are likely to accumulate is very important as well. 

As for how much debt is a “reasonable” amount to take on in order to attain a bachelor’s degree, the survey shows that 62 percent of respondents think $20,000 or more is reasonable, followed by 40 percent who said $30,000 or more is reasonable. Regarding the debt associated with associate’s degree, 74 percent said that less than $20,000 is reasonable and 46 percent said that less than $10,000 is reasonable. One quarter of respondents said that under $5,000 in debt or no debt at all would be reasonable.

Eighty percent of respondents said institutions must change to better meet the needs of today’s students and 42 percent said that schools are already changing to better fit students’ needs.

 

Publication Date: 4/17/2015


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