Varying Degrees: How America Perceives Higher Education in 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 a representative sample of Americans ages 18 and older to better understand their thoughts about higher education. 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. Since this is an election year, the report pays particular attention to the similarities and differences of opinion among Republicans and Democrats.

Please join New America for a graduation week event as we take a closer look at the survey results, and discuss the implications of these findings for students, institutional leaders, and policymakers. 

Follow the conversation online with #VaryingDegrees and by following @NewAmericaEd.


Registration & Breakfast: 9:00 - 9:30 a.m.

Opening Remarks 9:30 - 9:35 a.m.

Kevin Carey, @kevincarey1
Vice President, Education Policy and Knowledge Management, New America

Presentation of the Data: 9:35 - 10:00 a.m.

Ernest Ezeugo, @ErnestEzeugo
Program Associate, New America

Panel: How Current Students View Higher Education: 10:00 a.m. - 11:00 a.m.

Rute Assefa
Undergraduate Student, Washington College

Orkhan Patsiyev
Apprentice at Siemens Charlotte

Ariel Ventura-Lazo
Undergraduate Student, George Mason University

Eric Waldo@ewwaldo
Executive Director, Michelle Obama's Reach Higher Initiative
Executive Vice President for Education, Civic Nation

Panel: Translating America’s Perceptions Into Policy: 11:00 a.m. - 12:00 p.m.

Rachel Fishman, @higheredrachel
Deputy Director for Higher Education Research, New America

Joe Garcia, @WICHEJoeGarcia
President, Western Interstate Commission for Higher Education

Jee Hang Lee
Vice President for Public Policy and External Relations, Association of Community College Trustees
Tamara Hiler, @tamarahiler
Deputy Director of Education, Third Way