ON THE AGENDA | OCTOBER 6TH, 2016 | Allison Rizzolo

Elevating Public Views to Rebuild Faith in Higher Education

We believe that efforts to boost college attainment will have the best chance of succeeding if they are informed by and responsive to the needs and perspectives of the American public. Do you agree?

Experts, including presidential candidates, overwhelmingly assert the importance of education beyond high school. Yet research we released last month suggests these exchanges are not reaching the public. Just 42 percent of Americans say a college education is necessary for success in the workforce.

This month, we seek to elevate the public's voice on the problems and solutions facing higher education, through new findings released today. We hope these findings will help policymakers, experts, and college and university leaders better understand how they can rebuild the public's faith in higher education as a path to a better life.

In a pair of surveys funded by The Kresge Foundation, Public Agenda asked over 1,000 American adults about prominent problems and reforms facing higher education.

What are the problems?

  • 68% of Americans say cuts in state funding for public colleges is a problem. But they're just as likely to say colleges that are wasteful in how they spend their money is a problem.
  • Americans are also concerned about high schools that fail to prepare students for college-level work. However, they are less likely to view student persistence as a problem.

Most Americans view preparedness, compared to persistence, as a serious problem.

What are the solutions?

  • 66% of Americans support free college for low-and middle-income students, though they are divided by political affiliation and age.
  • Most Americans say colleges should prepare students for jobs and careers. They also support requiring colleges to publicly report graduation metrics.

Americans show varying support for common approaches to higher education reform.

We believe that efforts to boost college attainment will have the best chance of succeeding if they are informed by and responsive to the needs and perspectives of the American public. Do you agree? If so, help us spread the word about this research! Copy and paste the tweets below.

Just 42% of Americans say #college education necessary for success in the workforce, per @PublicAgenda survey http://ow.ly/GpQo304TR7E

New research from @PublicAgenda can help #highered leaders rebuild public faith in #highered: http://ow.ly/GpQo304TR7E

66% of Americans support free college, tho divided by age & politics: new @PublicAgenda research: http://ow.ly/GpQo304TR7E

Americans say #highered finances are a serious problem - both public funding & how colleges manage $: http://ow.ly/GpQo304TR7E


Statistics of actual attainment requirement for economy

Submitted by: Bill Murrin on Monday, October 10th, 2016

The BLS shows that 28% of jobs in our economy require a college degree - associate's to graduate levels. Therefore, we already have too many people with college degrees - approximately 40%. What we need to do is shift our focus from postsecondary to secondary education to prepare youth for the economy as several European nations do - Switzerland, Finland, Austria, Denmark, and Germany. It's time America wakes up and abandons its fantasy that all Americans should be aristocrats - i.e. possess some college degree!

College Value and Completion

Submitted by: Darryl G. Greer, PhD on Tuesday, October 18th, 2016

While I appreciate the research effort, the proposed public policy solutions seem to be a macro-mixed bag. Prior research by the National Center for Higher Education Public Policy, NE University, Hart Research Associates, and my own at Stockton University provides more insight into how citizens and students perceive college value, expected outcomes, top skills and abilities sought, affordability and the role of advising and counseling. Our NJ survey of of recent graduates indicates that a top desired means of reducing time to degree completion is more practical experiences (internships) tied to academic study, and more credit for prior learning outside of college. Unfortunately, we found earlier that too few students get these experiences(20% of current undergrads, and 50% of recent grads, including the professions and graduate school. Our 2014 survey of 5000 undergraduates at 32 NJ colleges and universities drilled deep into availability, use, value and quality of counseling and advising services, perhaps one of the most comprehensive statewide surveys of its kind, recently.About 30% of students surveyed found these services as unimportant to the desired outcome of good jobs and careers (the top reason for attending college). Closing this disconnect regarding more practical experience tied to writing, speaking and problem solving skills and workplace behavioral skills seems to be a more fruitful policy approach to the value, cost completion challenge. This may be especially the case because citizens, while concerned about cost and outcomes, still trust colleges working with businesses, more that government, to accomplish needed changes. Finally, our polls do not show college grads in NJ slipping on the value question. Up 70-90% of NJ citizens in our polls say that college is worth the cost, when asked as a straight forward question, rather one tied to ability to succeed.These studies are at www.stockton.edu/hughescenter/hesig

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