The majority of Americans believe college is too expensive and fails to provide good value to students, but the overwhelming majority of students still say college is a good investment for them personally, according to a recent study.

Is college worth it?

The Pew Research Center released the study “Is College Worth It?” on May 15, surveying college presidents and students to assess the quality, value and mission of higher education.

Taken from a representative sample of 2,142 adults ages 18 and older and an online survey including presidents of 1,055 two-year and four-year private, public, and for-profit colleges and universities, the study found that 57 percent of Americans say the higher education system in the United States fails to provide students with good value for the money they and their families spend, 75 percent of Americans say college is more expensive than they can afford, and 86 percent of college graduates say college is a good personal investment.

Conflicting concerns

The survey shows that the public has a keen awareness about the earnings of college graduates versus non-college graduates, and are in constant evaluation of the worth of the college degree.

On the other hand, college presidents are less concerned about the cost of earning an education.

The study revealed that college presidents are much more worried about the quality and standards at the institutions they direct, with only 19 percent of the 1,055 college presidents surveyed saying they believe that the U.S. system of higher education is the best in the world, and just 7 percent answering that they think it will be the best in the world 10 years from now.

College presidents and the general public also disagree on who should be paying for education — whereas 63 percent of college presidents think students or their parents should pay tuition costs, 52 percent of those parents and families believe the federal government, states, private donation or some combination should pay for the cost of education.

Perhaps this is because there is an increasing amount of people who cannot afford college: three-quarters of the public say they cannot afford college education, when significantly fewer people (60 percent) felt this way in 1985.

Increasing enrollment in the face of adversity

Still, college enrollment has increased for all demographics and age groups over the years. Particularly significant is the increase in racial and ethnic groups enrollment in college.

Whereas the enrollment for young whites is much higher than any demographic, the number of blacks and Hispanics enrolled in college has increase. Also, the number of females enrolled in college has increased to outweigh the number of males enrolled in college, in the 18-24 year-old demographic.

Overall, the study shows that the rising costs of college tuition and troubled economy is causing more and more Americans to evaluate the worth of college. And while the number of adults attending college has shot to record highs as of late, the number of young adults enrolling in college courses is stalled.

Perhaps this is because adults have gained experience and understand the long-term worth of receiving a college education, despite the growing costs of enrollment.

And still, the 86 percent of college graduates that say college was a good investment for them seem to be coming out on top: college graduates on average earn nearly $650,000 more than high school graduates throughout the course of their work life, according to a new Pew Research Center analysis of census data.


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