THE GROWING IMPORTANCE OF HIGHER EDUCATION


For the entire period that we have been tracking public opinion, Americans have always felt that higher education is important, and have been nearly unanimous in thinking that a young person is best advised to pursue a college education rather than take even a good job out of high school (see Figure 1).

But in recent years, we have also seen a dramatic growth of a new value, one that asserts that college is not only important but is absolutely necessary for success in todayís economy. The number of people who think that a young person can succeed without college has dropped from 67% in 2000 to 49% today (see Figure 2).

From the publicís point of view, in other words, a higher education has become the essential admission ticket to be considered for a high quality job (see Figure 3).

A good job, in turn, is seen as the pathway to middle-class status. As a result, the public has come to regard access to higher education as a virtual right (see Figure 4).

Note: Question wording in charts may be slightly edited for space. Full question wording is available from the National Center at www.highereducation.org. Percentages may not equal 100% due to rounding or the omission of some answer categories.


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