Americans Place High Value On College Education, Survey Finds
Americans believe the nation’s colleges and universities provide a high-quality education and serve as an economic engine for their home states, according to findings of a national survey released today by the American Council on Education (ACE). However, the public believes future state budget cuts could threaten the educational quality of institutions and limit the economic benefits they provide.
The national survey is the third study ACE has conducted in recent years on public opinion regarding the value, cost and quality of U.S. higher education institutions.
The latest study focuses only on public colleges and universities, while earlier surveys — conducted in 1998 and 2000 — examined opinions on all higher education institutions, both public and private.
“In these tough economic times, in which cuts in state appropriations have resulted in funding shortfalls and the need to raise tuition at some public colleges and universities, we wanted to gauge the public’s perception of conditions at these schools,” says ACE President Dr. David Ward.
Ward added that “states should take into account all of the resources and contributions offered by their public institutions as well as their private colleges. Some states provide students with financial aid to attend either type of institution.”
The national survey of 700 U.S. adults was conducted in late October 2001 by KRC Research and Consulting on behalf of ACE.
The survey shows that Americans continue to place a high value on a college education, as 77 percent of those surveyed believe a college education is more important today than it was 10 years ago — up from 73 percent in 2000.
Moreover, those surveyed believe that public colleges and universities offer a quality education and a good value for the money. Eighty-three percent believe public institutions in their states offer a “very good value” or “somewhat good value” for the money. Seven out of 10 (70 percent) rate the quality of education at public colleges and universities as “excellent” or “good” and nearly eight out of 10 (76 percent) rated the quality of private institutions as “excellent” or “good.”
In addition, the study reveals that Americans recognize the tremendous economic benefits that public institutions provide. Nearly 90 percent of those surveyed feel it is “very important”(76 percent) or “fairly important”(13 percent) to have good public colleges and universities in order to have a well-trained work force in a state.
Respondents also understand the direct connection between state budgets and the financial stability of public colleges and universities. They express “a great deal” of concern that cuts in state funding could result in a decline in the quality of education at institutions (77 percent), reduce financial aid (64 percent), or result in fewer classes and majors offered (52 percent).
The study also found that the number of Americans who say colleges and universities try to keep tuition affordable has increased over time. However, African Americans are significantly more likely than others to think that colleges do not try to keep tuition affordable.
The complete survey is available on the ACE Web site at <www.acenet.edu>.
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