Americans believe in the tremendous potential of higher education—but they also feel that higher education is falling short of that promise. New America's inaugural survey reveals a stark expectations gap between what higher education could—and should—be and what higher education currently is.
Varying Degrees: New America’s Annual Survey on Higher Education surveys 1,600 Americans ages 18 and older to better understand their perceptions of and knowledge about higher education and economic mobility. The survey shows both unifying themes as well as differences across age, gender, generation, region, and socioeconomic status when it comes to the value of a college education, who is responsible for student success, the ideal role of government, and the goal of higher education.
Our top findings include:
Americans are split about whether there are lots of well-paying jobs that do not require a college degree. Slightly over half (51 percent) agree that there are lots of well-paying jobs that do not require college attendance.
There is wide agreement (75 percent), however, that it is easier to be successful with a degree than without.
Only a quarter of Americans agree that our higher education system is functioning fine just the way it is.
Over half (57 percent) of Americans believe that colleges and universities should help their students succeed.
This survey provides an important opportunity to see how the opinions of and knowledge about higher education of older generations such as Baby Boomers and the Silent Generation compare to Millennials and their younger counterparts, Generation Z.
This survey data will help inform education policy and funding decisions that affect all Americans, but particularly current and prospective college students. As our first annual survey, this year’s findings will also serve as a baseline to measure shifts in beliefs and perceptions over time.