U.S. minorities believe more strongly than Whites that young people need a four-year college degree to attain success, a new poll shows. In addition, minorities expressed substantially more belief than Whites in the idea that the U.S. economy will benefit if President Obama’s goal of increasing the proportion of Americans with postsecondary degrees by 2020 is met.
Seventy-percent of Latinos, 61 percent of Asian Americans and 55 percent of African-Americans agreed with the statement that “young people today need a four-year college degree in order to be successful,” compared with 47 percent of Whites, according to a new College Board/National Journal Next America Poll.
Compared to 48 percent of Whites, the poll showed that 76 percent of African-Americans, 68 percent of Latinos and 63 percent of Asian-Americans believe the economy will benefit from meeting Obama’s goal of increasing the proportion of young workers with postsecondary degrees from 40 to 60 percent by 2020.
Released earlier this month, the poll was undertaken as part of the National Journal magazine’s Next America project, which is an exploration of “how changing demography is changing the national agenda,” said Ronald Brownstein, the National Journal editorial director. The National Journal is a Washington-based weekly magazine that reports largely on national politics and emerging political and policy trends.
As a component of the Next America project, the “National Journal/College Board poll provides insight into the views of a changing American population, elevating the importance of higher education and the challenges many African-American and Hispanic students face in earning a degree,” said Stefanie Sanford, the College Board’s Chief of Global Advocacy and Policy, in a statement.
U.S. Senator Bob Menendez, D-N.J., in describing the Next America project at a launch and poll release event in Washington, said the “National Journal is taking a realistic look at who we are, what America will look like, and what we can do to maximize the economic opportunity that will come from the seismic shift we’re seeing.”
“There’s no doubt the multicultural future we knew would someday come is already here,” he added.
The National Journal and the College Board collaborated on the poll to examine “public attitudes about pathways to opportunity, and the persistence of educational and economic gaps among the races, in an increasingly diversifying America,” explained Brownstein. Last month, under the direction of the partner organizations, the Princeton Survey Research Associates International firm surveyed 1,272 adults ages 18 and older in English and Spanish. The poll includes over-samples of 245 African-Americans, 229 Latinos and 107 Asian-Americans.
During the recent Next America event, Brownstein said that in 2013 there was less overall support for the idea that young people need a four-year degree to be successful than when the question was asked in a 2012 poll. White respondents’ support of the idea dropped from 57 percent last year to 47 percent. “The overall share saying [a four-year degree is needed for success] dropped from 61 percent to 52 percent since the last time we asked this,” Brownstein said. “This is clearly a challenge for higher education institutions.”
In survey poll interviews, respondents indicated that their skepticism about the value of college stemmed somewhat from the struggles many recent college graduates have had in the job market. “It’s very clear that these doubts are rooted in the concern about the economic experience of young college graduates, too many of whom may be back where they started before college,” Brownstein explained.
He pointed out there was broad consensus among the racial and ethnic groups on their disapproval of the trend with states shifting more of the cost for public higher education from taxpayers to families through tuition increases. Two-thirds of respondents said such trends were “unfair because all citizens have a stake in ensuring that college remains affordable for all.” Twenty-five percent said the shift is fair “because parents and students, not taxpayers, should pay the larger share of the cost of college.”
“People were uncomfortable with this trend of shifting more of the cost away from the society broadly through taxes toward parents and students through higher tuition at public universities,” said Brownstein.