We also studied Californiansí attitudes toward higher education in 1993 and 1996,
although for the most part we were interested in different topics for those studies. One
area that we did track had to do with the perceived opportunity of various groups to gain
access to higher education.
As the chart on page 5 shows, Californians see some improvement in access to
higher education. The perception of the situation for both middle-class and low-income
students has improved. In 1993, 61% said that low-income students had less opportunity
to attend college than others, but by 2000 that number had dropped to 47%. We saw a
similar drop in the perception that middle-class students had problems (from 22% to
10%). The perception of the situation for minorities has remained unchanged.
Interestingly, people are now more likely to say there are problems for older people
going back for retraining. When we probed this response with focus group participants
in other states, they said that people are working longer hours now and no longer can
take the time to go back to college. The improvement in the economy, in other words,
may be making it seem harder for older people to get retraining.