Given that there is a collision course between the increasing necessity and the decreasing availability of higher education, one might expect that higher education access would be at the top of the public’s agenda. But higher education remains, at least so far, a back-burner issue—important, but not highest on the list of concerns.

One of these factors, for instance, is the widely shared belief that, ultimately, any student who is willing to make enough sacrifices (such as going to school part-time, living at home, etc.) can still get a higher education (see Figure 9).

In other words, despite the fact that access to higher education is—for all practical purposes—slipping out of reach for more people, the door has not been completely shut. In fact, most people think that students who have to sacrifice for a higher education will actually learn more (see Figure 10).

The presence and accessibility of community colleges is another major factor that relieves anxiety. Parents of high school students are extremely nervous about high costs and decreasing access, but large majorities of them remain convinced that their child will get a college education (see Figure 11) and that, somehow, they will find a way to pay for it (see Figure 12).

  One reason is the existence of “pressure releasers.” These are factors that tend to reduce public anxiety.


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