Poll shows most Americans are satisfied with higher education

A higher-education poll shows two-thirds of Americans believe students and their families should bear the financial burden of a college education.

A poll recently released by The Chronicle of Higher Education shows Americans are more than satisfied with the level and quality of higher education in the United States and their faith in higher education remains high.

The poll found that two-thirds of Americans believe students and their families should pay the largest portion of a college education. According to the study, 11 percent said states should pay most of the college costs.

Recent University graduate Justin Schermerhorn said he supports using tax dollars to fund public universities and colleges. However, he would like public universities to channel funding more efficiently.

“You have to have funding for public schools,” Schermerhorn said. “If I didn’t know how horribly inefficient and bureaucratic the University is, I wouldn’t have any problem at all.”

George Dehne, president of GDA Integrated Services, a marketing and research company that designed the Chronicle poll, said Americans’ value of higher education coupled with a reluctance to fund universities should not be unexpected.

“The fact that people don’t think the state should pay for higher education shouldn’t come as a surprise at all,” Dehne said. He said the survey reflects the current conservative U.S. political climate.

He said the poll shows Americans can believe in and trust the higher education system in this country. At the same time, he said, Americans do not back the use of tax dollars to fund public universities and colleges.

“It’s a relatively conservative country at this point,” he said. He added that the individualistic nature of U.S. society also adds to the hesitation surrounding public funding.

“Remember, this is a country that doesn’t have a health care system that’s federally paid for,” Dehne said.

The attitude displayed by Americans in the poll – mainly the idea of an individual working for and reaping the rewards of a college education – is a sign of the times, said Doug Lederman, managing editor of the Chronicle.

“The public seems to believe that it’s not government’s job to pay a student’s way through college,” Lederman said. Society views higher education as something that exclusively advances students’ opportunities.

“(Americans are) viewing a higher education as more of a personal benefit than as something that society should invest in,” he said.

Darwin Hendel, University associate professor of educational policy and administration, said he is glad a study regarding the public’s thoughts on the U.S. institution of higher education was conducted.

He said public aversion to more publicly funded higher education is a shift in Americans’ priorities.

“It’s a lessening of the public good value of higher education,” Hendel said.

He said the trend of students and their families paying their way through college without much state funding is a process that has been developing for years.

“Over the past decade, cost of education has increased and state support has decreased,” he said. “Students are the ones who are inevitably caught in this situation.”

Hendel said the public’s increasing conviction that students should pay for college without much governmental aid cannot bode well for society.

“The public needs to understand that some of that value is at risk if the public funding that goes into public colleges and universities continues to decrease,” he said.

Recent economics graduate Matthew Benson said he would support more of his tax dollars going to public colleges and universities because of their clear societal positives.

“Investing in the community is a real investment that shows real returns,” Benson said. “It’s a mistake when people don’t see the benefit of having a more educated population.”

Geoff Ziezulewicz welcomes comments at [email protected]