New Survey Shows Americans Have Soured on Higher Education

Annie Holmquist | May 11, 2017

The end of the school year is always greeted with great pomp and circumstance. But while many exult over the completion of high school, college, and other levels of schooling, support for higher education as usual seems to be waning.

According to a survey from the New America think tank, the American public agrees that it is easier to be successful with a sheepskin in hand, but also believes it’s time to change the iron grip which a college degree holds on society. As the graph below shows, nearly 70 percent disagree with the statement that “higher education in America is fine how it is.”

Higher Ed fine how it is

Furthermore, the survey finds that many Americans believe “there are lots of good-paying jobs that do not require college.” Yet the survey also suggests that many avoid these jobs and head to college anyway, simply for the fact that society doesn’t respect those who take an alternative path to their career.

Americans Respect Those who Go to College

So is there a happy medium between these options? The survey goes on to suggest that two-year colleges might be one solution, for huge majorities believe they are “worth the cost,” are likely to prepare students for success, and “contribute to a strong American workforce.”

The fact that two-year colleges are so popular may be due in part to the incorporation of apprenticeship-style degree programs. As a recent Pioneer Press article explains, community college programs such as those at St. Paul College are shorter, more cost-effective, and offer partnerships with local businesses. Such arrangements not only provide companies with the labor they need, but also provide students with the fulfillment, direction, and success they long for.

As the Pioneer Press goes on to explain, one of these students is Will Anderson, who “bounced around a variety of college classes after high school but never found a career path that felt right.” The article continues:

“On Wednesday, Anderson will complete St. Paul College’s nine-month carpentry program, and the following day, he’ll start a job in residential construction. He’s happy to be heading into a hands-on career that’s in high demand.

‘I spent a lot of time and money going to school because that’s what you are supposed to do,’ Anderson said. ‘Now everybody I know with a business degree is struggling to find a job.’”

Combined with the recent results of New America’s higher education survey, Anderson’s words should serve as a wake-up call to the U.S. Have we led many students away from the chance of success and fulfillment in life simply because we’ve convinced them that those who avoid college are doomed to a life of disrespect from the rest of society?

Image Credit: Nazareth College