Why survey finds higher ed headed in wrong direction

50% of graduates said they attended college to improve job prospects, not follow an academic passion

Americans believe colleges and universities are headed in the wrong direction but not because of the recent coronavirus disruptions, according to a survey by Populace, a think tank focused on access and opportunity.

Some 52% of the more than 2,000 students, graduates and parents said higher education is misguided, while only 33% felt a degree was needed to join the middle class, the survey found.

The goal of the survey was “to ensure the public has a voice in what higher education evolves to look like, offer, become,” the authors of the report wrote.

One of the leading causes for the discontent was a belief, cited by 67% of respondents, that colleges and universities put their own interests ahead of students’ needs. Only 9% of those surveyed said schools prioritize students’ interests.


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As far as enrollment, 50% of the college graduates surveyed said their primary reason for attending college was to improve their job prospects.

Only 15% said they enrolled to learn more about an academic subject.

However, only 27% said a degree was needed to achieve the American dream.

Among Americans who chose not to enroll in college, 40% said they didn’t go because they couldn’t afford it. However, only a quarter of the respondents supported free college as a way of reforming higher education.

Respondents were also evenly split on the fairness of using the SAT or ACT test for college acceptance.

Meanwhile, 62% of respondents said their opinions of colleges and universities had not been changed by higher ed’s response to the coronavirus. Still, 42% believe the quality of the college experience decline when campuses reopen for the fall semester.


More from UB: Students face an ‘opportunity gap.’ Here’s how to close it.


Matt Zalaznick
Matt Zalaznick
Matt Zalaznick is a life-long journalist. Prior to writing for District Administration he worked in daily news all over the country, from the NYC suburbs to the Rocky Mountains, Silicon Valley and the U.S. Virgin Islands. He's also in a band.

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