Varying Degrees 2018

New America's Annual Survey on Higher Education
Blog Post
May 21, 2018

After years of economic growth following the Great Recession, people still feel anxious about the economy and see higher education as essential for improving personal financial circumstances. While New America’s second annual survey about perceptions on higher education shows that Americans believe pursuing education beyond high school is important for career growth and economic security, they still feel that higher education is not fine the way it is, and that government should do more to make it affordable. 

Varying Degrees 2018: New America’s Second Annual Survey on Higher Education surveyed 1,600 Americans ages 18 and older to better understand their perceptions of higher education, economic mobility, and government funding. Like last year, the survey shows unifying themes, as well as differences across various demographics when it comes to the value of education beyond high school in today’s economy and the government’s role in funding this education. We pay particular attention to the similarities and differences of opinion among Republicans, Democrats, and Independents in this election year. 

Our top findings include: 

  • Americans believe well-paying jobs require education after high school. Less than half (48 percent) believe there are well-paying jobs that do not require education after high school. 
  • Americans believe education after high school creates opportunities. Most Americans (80 percent) believe there are more opportunities for those who pursue education after high school versus only 14 percent who say there is more opportunity for those who pursue work right away.
  • Americans want change in higher education. Like last year, only one in four Americans believes that higher education is fine the way it is.
  • Americans believe public colleges and universities are worth the cost but feel mixed about private and for-profit colleges and universities. A majority of Americans say community colleges and public four-year colleges and universities are worth the cost (81 percent and 65 percent, respectively). Whereas only about two in five Americans believe that private (44 percent) and for-profit (40 percent) colleges and universities are worth the cost. 
  • Regardless of demographic, Americans like their local colleges and universities. Four out of five (81 percent) have a positive view of the higher education institutions near them.
  • Americans support workforce-based programs such as apprenticeship. There is wide agreement (90 percent) that apprenticeships and skills training programs prepare students for a good standard of living. 
  • Americans believe higher education is a public benefit and that the government should do more to make it affordable. A majority (60 percent) believe government should spend tax dollars on higher education because it is a good for society, compared with 27 percent who say students should fund it because higher education is a personal benefit. Over three-quarters of Americans think state and federal government should spend more tax revenue on higher education to make it more affordable.
You can read the full report here.

In addition, please join New America today for the release of this new research. We will be hosting an event starting at 9:30am. You can register to attend in person or watch the livestream here

Related Topics
Higher Education Accountability & Consumer Protection Higher Education Access and Affordability Higher Education Data and Transparency