ON THE AGENDA | SEPTEMBER 15TH, 2016 | WILL FRIEDMAN, PH.D.

The public may be losing faith in higher education

What does that mean for leaders?

Part of our monthly "Progress Report" newsletter. To receive the latest email updates from Public Agenda, click here.

This week, we released new research suggesting the public is losing confidence in higher education:

  • Just 42% of Americans say college is necessary for success in the workforce. This reverses a previous trend. (See our blog for more on this trend.)
  • 46% say college is a questionable investment due to high student loans and limited job opportunities.
  • 69% say there are many people who are qualified but lack the opportunity to go to college.
  • 59% say colleges today are like most businesses and care mainly about the bottom line.

Yet experts overwhelmingly agree that college credentials are the best opportunity to improve the economic prosperity of individuals, families, communities and the nation.

What should policymakers and education leaders take away from this research? Given their many efforts to boost college attainment, they ought to take these findings seriously. In particular, the findings should provoke them to better understand and respond to the factors underlying the public's skepticism about the value of higher education.

The research should also provoke leaders to reflect on their efforts to communicate with the public about the value and benefits of college. For example, leaders may need to better articulate the job opportunities a college education can provide and the return on investment of a college degree or certificate. They may also consider the best ways to engage the public regarding the varied types of higher education and the opportunities each can deliver.

Let's start the conversation! You can help by sharing this research with others - forward this email or share this infographic. And let us know what you think. We believe it crucial that higher education leaders be aware of the shift in public opinion this research strongly suggests, and consider the best way to respond.


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