Differing Opinions on College Value

College graduates and the general public seem to differ in their beliefs about college value, according to a study released in May 2011 by Pew Research Center.

The majority of people in the United States (57%) believe that the country’s higher education system is a failure when it comes to providing students with good value in regards to the money that they spend to receive a college education. However, out of those who have actually graduated from college, 86% agree that a post-secondary education has been a good personal investment, while only 6% have said it was not a good investment (7% were unsure).

The study found that investing in higher education tends to pay off as far as monetary benefits, intellectual growth, and job preparation.

When it comes to money, those who graduated from four-year colleges said they are earning an average of $20,000 more a year than those who only graduated from high school. This figure almost lines up with the median gap in annual earnings reported by the U.S. Census Bureau in 2010. Well over half (74%) agreed that a college education was very useful when it came to their intellectual growth and increase in knowledge, while 22% said that it was only fairly useful.

In addition, college graduates believe that education is more than academics, with 69% indicating that it was very useful in helping them mature and grow as a person and 24% crediting it as being fairly useful when it came to personal growth. While it is a common belief that a college education is necessary in order to get a good job, just a little over the majority (55%) of college grads said that it was very useful and 33% said it was fairly useful in preparing them for a job or career.

Overall, when it comes to what it takes as far as character traits or personal experiences go, for a young person to succeed in life, a college education isn’t at the top of the list. Out of those who responded to the public survey, 61% agreed that a good work ethic was extremely important, while 57% said that it was extremely important to know how to get along with people, and 43% thought work skills learned on the job was extremely important. A college education came in last, with 42% of respondents agreeing that it was extremely important for a young person to succeed and 35% that is was very important.

But in spite of the number of people who do not believe that students are receiving good value when it comes to higher education, most still believe that they should attend college. Also, almost all (94%) parents who participated in the survey expect their children to attend college.

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