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What the Polling Showing Sustained Support for Post-Secondary Schooling REALLY Shows

June 25, 2020

Yesterday Forbes published an essay by contributor Michael Nietzel describing the findings of a pre pandemic survey on the public’s perception of post-secondary education. Conducted by New America, a public policy think tank, here are some of the findings:

  • Democrats and Republicans are in more agreement about numerous aspects of higher education than has been suggested by previous surveys.
  • Americans continue to believe in the value of post-secondary education
  • Americans agree that higher education brings more opportunities, but white and Asian Americans agree at higher rates than Black and Latinx Americans.
  • Americans express more support for public institutions than for private, non-profit or for-profit schools
  • Americans believe higher education needs to change.
  • Only half of Americans think postsecondary education is affordable.
  • Americans Believe In Contingencies of Accountability— that is “Americans endorse using indicators such as graduation rates, graduate earnings, and student loan default rates to evaluate postsecondary institutions and they support linking federal and state financial support for institutions to these outcomes.”

What this pre-pandemic survey shows is that the general public is still buying into the idea that unless one goes to college they will lose out on opportunities to advance in their career, to earn higher wages, and to, therefore, lead a less than fulfilled life. They are agreeing with the messages they’ve heard from the schools they attended, the parents who raised them, and the politicians who pandered to them.

In earlier blog posts I’ve written that tests that screen for gifted and talented students have the effect of sending a message to all who “fail” the test that they are UN-gifted and UN-talented. When 92% of those polled believe post-secondary education offers pathways to upward economic mobility and only 40% of the graduates from high school attend college, what message are the other 60% getting about their chances in the future? Is it any surprise that many in our country are resentful of those who got a college degree? Is it any surprise that many in our high schools who are not in the college bound track are disengaged from schooling altogether and unenthusiastic about entering the workforce?

A new message needs to be sent to students and parents across the country: there is no shame in not attending college and no limit to opportunities or especially happiness if one doesn’t pursue post-secondary schools. Oh… one message that cannot be emphasized enough is this: despite what you’ve been taught implicitly or explicitly, there is no correlation between income and happiness.

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