Public Agenda
Public Agenda Alert -- September 18, 2013
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Skeptical of Online Ed
Solutions to Health Care
PA in the News
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Students and Employers Skeptical of Online Ed

Technology has the power to provide a tailored education to every individual. It also holds the potential to make college more accessible and, in the long run, more affordable to all Americans. Because of this, more colleges and universities are integrating online curricula into their degree programs.


But how do students feel about online education and how do employers view someone with an online credential? Is online education meeting the diverse needs of students? 


Public Agenda, with the support of The Kresge Foundation, surveyed current community college students and human resources professionals to explore these questions. We found that both groups remain skeptical about the value of online education.


The majority of employers (56 percent), for example, prefer a job applicant with a traditional degree from an average school over an applicant with an online degree from a top university (17 percent).  But at the same time, 80 percent of employers agree that online-only degrees and certificates provide opportunities for older students to get valuable college credentials.


Community college students are split on whether the quality of online classes is comparable to classroom instruction. A majority (61 percent) say online classes require more discipline than traditional in person classes. But 53 percent say these classes teach students the same, and 42 percent say they teach less  than in-person classes.  





These doubts suggest that online education, as it exists currently, may not serve all students equally well, and that there is room for improvements that ensure the diverse needs of students are met.


Download the brief on our website. This research is part of a larger project exploring student and employer attitudes toward online and for-profit education, as well as the needs of non-traditional students.


Have you had experience with online education that brings a new perspective to the conversation? Engage with us on Twitter @PublicAgenda using #NotYetSold.

Real Solutions to Health Care

Starting October 1, some 7 million currently uninsured Americans are expected to purchase insurance, as the next stage of Obamacare kicks in. Of course, the future of health care reform is not a given: Republicans and Democrats continue to butt heads on the law, with the former actively seeking to thwart it.


Regardless of Obamacare's fate, the fact remains that the nation needs to address the escalating cost of health care. This video provides an excellent nonpartisan breakdown of the nation's health care costs, how they compare to the rest of the world, and why solving the problem is so complex. We also recommend you read our Citizens' Solutions Guide on health care for an overview of the issue and some choices for tackling it.


Of course, any means of addressing rising costs in health care will require the public's support to be successful. Many may be skeptical and believe citizens will walk party lines without deliberating thoughtfully on our choices.


However, we spent part of this past year engaging average, middle-aged citizens across the country in meaningful discussions about possible cost-saving approaches, and we saw something entirely different unfold:


When given the chance and with the right kind of support, citizens wanted to engage the hard choices around long-term solutions to health care spending. And they did so with surprisingly productive results.


Participants in these discussions deliberated civilly and thoughtfully, often with others who didn't share their particular views. Furthermore, they wished more people, including policy leaders and health care providers, would do the same.


And it turned out, participants found a good amount of common ground on the sorts of policies they'd support as well as the policies that worried or concerned them.


We'll release the findings from this research in the coming months. If you are interested in receiving them, email Megan Donovan at You can also change your mailing list preferences if you'd like to hear about other health care work we do in the future.

PA in the News

Civility in the workplace is just as important in the legislature, because it impacts the creativity and performance of a group. Public Agenda's report on respect was cited in this Financial Post article.  



The Public and Public Schools in Four Charts

This EDifier article looks at three conflicting national polls to unveil American's view of public education, charter schools, and choice. "Will It Be on the Test?" is used to to bring a nuanced look at parents' view of accountability and reform policies.


Ratings and earnings: A deeper look at Obama's education ideas
President Obama's plan to address the rising cost of college and establish a ratings system to make shopping for schools a bit easier must be done in a cautious and conscious manner. This blog post also points out that the group who could benefit from such ratings systems would be college counselors, who are under prepared and scarce. 
Common Core: A Puzzle to Public
Senior Fellow Jean Johnson commented on what can be gleaned from the murky picture recent polls paint. "Having these polls out together actually provides a lot of information, and in some ways, suggests issues that need some attention. Clearly, Common Core is one of those," said Jean. 
Teachers In the U.S. Get Little Respect  
What comes first on the list of education woes - the ill-prepared teacher or a culture that devalues his or her work? This Huffington Post piece looks at how other countries have created an environment where young people vigorously compete to be teachers.
Study Looks at Parental Involvement with Children at School
Carolin Hagelskamp, Ph.D., director of research, spoke to KMBZ Kansas City about the different ways parents seek involvement in their child's education and how to engage parents further. 

About Us
Public Agenda is a nonprofit organization that helps diverse leaders and citizens navigate complex, divisive issues. Through nonpartisan research and engagement, it provides people with the insights and support they need to arrive at workable solutions on critical issues, regardless of their differences. Since 1975, Public Agenda has helped foster progress on K-12 and higher education reform, health care, federal and local budgets, energy and immigration. Find Public Agenda online at

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