Office of Planning and Budgeting

Recent Pew Survey on College Affordability and Quality Released

The Pew Research Center recently conducted a large telephone survey of 2,142 Americans to gauge opinions about higher education quality, affordability, and importance. While many respondents reported anxiety about affordability, most valued a college education highly and reported a belief that it would provide career benefits in the future.  Some of the key findings of the survey included:

  • Only 22 percent of respondents believe most Americans could afford to pay the cost of college.
  • 48 percent think families should pay for the majority of the cost of a college education.
  • Of young adults who are not in college, 57% say they chose not to attend because they preferred to work and save money, and 48% claimed they cannot afford to go to college.
  • Average loan debt for students with bachelor’s degrees has hit an all-time high of $23,000, which respondents say has made it harder to make ends meet, buy a home, choose a career, and start a family.
  • Only five percent of the population thinks the higher education system is providing excellent value for money.

These results seemed to reflect a growing concern about college affordability as well as the shift in the responsibility of families versus the government in covering educational costs. Nevertheless, among college graduates, 86 percent believed college had been a good investment for them. Of parents with children aged 17 and younger, fully 94 percent expected their children to go to college. Additionally, most respondents were aware of the large financial benefit of holding a college degree: Another recent Pew survey showed that college graduates make about $650,000 more than high school graduates in their lifetimes. The survey seemed to reflect the belief that, while college is a valuable personal investment, affordability and quality persist as a significant concern.

Note that these results are consistent with other recent surveys we have reported on:

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