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Foreword
 
Preface and Methodology
 
Executive Summary
 
I. The Importance of Higher Education
 
II. Concerns about Price, Confidence about Accessiblity
 
III. The Role of Government
 
IV. Other Ways to Keep College Affordable
 
Probing Behind the Findings
 
Endnotes
 
About the Author
 
About Public Agenda
 
About the National Center for Public Policy and Higher Education
 

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Foreword


In 2001, the National Center for Public Policy and Higher Education asked Public Agenda, a nonprofit, nonpartisan research organization, to review available surveys on public opinion related to the affordability of American higher education. The result of this review, The Affordability of Higher Education: A Review of Recent Survey Research, updates the National Center's already extensive database on public attitudes about higher education. This report supplements the findings of another National Center report, Losing Ground: A National Status Report on the Affordability of American Higher Education. As previous public opinion research reveals, one of the most important concerns for the American public regarding higher education is how to pay the rising price of a college education.

If the current fiscal conditions affecting the states--and higher education--continue, it is very likely that public concerns about the affordability of higher education will intensify. A similar situation occurred in the early 1990s, when tuition at public colleges and universities rose dramatically in many states. A public backlash against these increases emerged, leading to tuition freezes in several states and to tuition rollbacks in others. The backlash also prompted lawmakers--in the states and at the federal level--to create new and to enhance existing tax breaks that help the middle class pay for college. Surveys show that the public understands the need for education and training beyond high school. If recent experience is a reliable guide, the public is likely to insist that government and higher education leaders find ways to maintain access to affordable higher education.

The National Center welcomes the reactions of readers to this report.

Joni Finney
Vice President
The National Center for Public Policy and Higher Education

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