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Recent survey explores perceptions of higher education

August 04, 2022
By: Emily Chesser

The recently published, 2022 edition of New America’s annual survey on American perceptions of higher education, Varying Degrees, includes findings that should be of interest – and potential concern – for the TBED community. The report includes updated findings on American perceptions of the value, funding, accountability, and admissions for higher education and perceptions of current financial security. It also reveals significant differences in perceptions of higher education based on respondents’ political affiliations.

The findings show that, in general, Americans continue to see the value of pursuing higher education. The report found that 64 percent recognize that postsecondary credentials will be required for economic security, and 76 percent believe higher education offers students a good return on investment. However, Republican and Democrat views on the value of higher education differ widely. According to the report, almost twice as many Democrats than Republicans (nearly 73 and 37 percent respectively), view colleges and universities as positively affecting their local communities.

In just two years, the percentage of respondents who thought colleges and universities are leading America in a positive direction has dropped by 14 percentage points, with about 55 percent of all respondents now saying they thought the institutions were having a positive effect on how things are going in this country. While respondents revealed a favorable opinion of how colleges and universities contribute to the workforce, with public community colleges and public four-year colleges and universities garnering the greatest favor (81 percent and 67 percent, respectively), only four out of ten respondents felt that way about for-profit colleges and universities.

For the survey, New America included household financial literacy and security questions to assess public feelings about the economic uncertainty associated with the current recession. According to the findings, perceived financial security has declined from 76 percent before the pandemic to 68 percent. Feelings of economic security varied between levels of education attained and race. When thinking about the future, 73 percent of respondents felt they would be economically secure six months from now.

Access the full Varying Degrees 2022 Report here.

higher ed, workforce