||Preface and Methodology
At the request of the National Center for Public Policy and Higher Education,
Public Agenda has compiled this review of survey research on the affordability
of higher education. We reviewed relevant survey findings from our own
research, particularly from two reports prepared by Public Agenda for the
National Center for Public Policy and Higher Education, Great Expectations
(2000) and The Price of Admission (1998). Taking Stock (2000), a report from the
American Council on Education, also was a useful source. We also reviewed the
survey results available on iPoll, an online research database maintained by the
Roper Center for Public Opinion Research at the University of Connecticut. We
drew primarily on research conducted between January 1997 and August 2001.*
In order to explore some questions raised by the quantitative findings, we
conducted two focus groups in the Philadelphia area, one with members of the
general public and one with parents of high school and college students.
We have organized our findings around five major themes:
In the body of the text, we have summarized the data available on each of
these themes and on some related subthemes. The endnotes describe the results
in greater detail. We conclude with some insights and hypotheses gained from
the focus groups.
- The perceived importance of higher education;
- Concerns about the price of higher education;
- Beliefs that, despite rising prices, higher education is still accessible;
- Views on the role of government; and
- Views about other steps to keep college affordable.
* All of the survey data in this report comes from polls that were fielded before the terrorist
attacks on September 11, 2001. The two focus groups, however, were conducted two weeks
after the attacks, on September 25, 2001. Participants in the groups did not seem to be thinking
differently about higher education issues as a result of the tragedy. Our data suggest that
attitudes on topics not specifically related to terrorism seem to be affected more by issues such
as the economy, rather than by the tragedy itself.