Find High Level of Public Confidence in Higher Education but
Growing Concern about College Access
surveys by the Chronicle
of Higher Education and Public
Agenda suggest that while Americans continue to regard
higher education institutions as valuable resources, they
are concerned about access to college. Most respondents to
the surveys expressed support for wide access to college and
agreed that a college education is crucial to success. The
Chronicle survey also shows continued support for
student aid and tenure, although a majority of Americans said
they disapprove of what they see as a "liberal" bias in higher
education. Despite the largely positive view of colleges and
universities, results from both surveys indicate that Americans
are worried that a college education is out reach for some
qualified young people. The fear that access is not keeping
pace with need—especially as college prices continue to climb—could
erode the public's faith in institutions of higher learning
over coming years.
- Americans overwhelmingly view
U.S. colleges and universities as valuable resources: Ninety-three
percent of survey respondents agree or strongly agree that
colleges and universities are among the country's
most valuable resources.
- Ninety-four percent of respondents
think that every high school student who wants a four-year
college degree should have the opportunity to earn one.
- Sixty-five percent of Americans
think Congress should increase grants for students, and
seventy-four percent think Congress should increase money
for student loans.
- A majority of Americans support
tenure. Sixty-one percent agree or strongly agree that "tenure
for faculty members is essential to preserving an atmosphere
of academic freedom at colleges and universities."
- Sixty-one percent of Americans
believe that colleges and universities improperly introduce
a "liberal" bias into what they teach.
Concerns about Access
- Forty-seven percent of survey
respondents believe that it is more difficult to be admitted
to a four-year college or university now than it was ten
- Fifty-seven percent of respondents
believe that there are many people in their state who are
qualified to attend college but do not have the opportunity
to do so. Thirty-seven percent believe that the vast majority
of qualified people have an opportunity to attend college.
- Forty-four percent of Americans
believe that qualified students from low-income families
have less opportunity to attend college than students from
wealthier families. Responding to a separate question, 27
percent said they believe that qualified ethnic or racial
minorities have less opportunity to attend college, while
22 percent said they believe that minorities have more opportunity.
- Fifty-three percent of
Americans believe that some preference in college admissions
should be given to minority students. A solid majority (75
percent) oppose giving extra consideration to "legacy"
Results from the Chronicle
of Higher Education
poll are available to subscribers only. The Public
Agenda/National Center for Public Policy and Higher Education
survey is accessible to all online.
- Colleges and universities rank alongside
the U.S. military and churches as the institutions in which
Americans have the most confidence.
- Fifty-two percent of Americans believe
that a four-year college degree is essential for success
in our society.
- Twenty-four percent of Americans
believe that the Democratic Party has the greatest interest
in improving higher education; 21 percent believe that Republicans
have a greater interest.