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||Finding One: Californians Believe That
Higher Education Is Vitally Important For Success In The Contemporary World.
In early 2000, Public Agenda surveyed 503 Californians statewide to determine their
attitudes toward higher education. In addition, we held two focus groups in Santa
Clara. We also conducted two previous statewide surveys in 1993 and 1996. Although
most of the questions in the 2000 study were new, we did use several questions from the
earlier studies, giving us an opportunity to track changes.
In many ways, the attitudes of Californians regarding higher education are
strikingly similar to the views of the nation as a whole, as revealed in our large scale
survey of public attitudes, Great Expectations: How the Public and Parents—White,
African American, and Hispanic—View Higher Education. Four major conclusions
emerged from our California research, which are also supported by what we found
nationwide. In addition, the final section of this report describes a few areas where the
attitudes of Californians differ somewhat from those of Americans generally.
For the purpose of this research, we define higher education broadly to include all
education and training beyond high school, including two- and four-year, public and
private, for-profit and nonprofit institutions.
CALIFORNIANS BELIEVE THAT HIGHER EDUCATION IS VITALLY IMPORTANT FOR SUCCESS IN THE CONTEMPORARY WORLD.
Most people in California believe that a higher education is essential for a person to
succeed in today’s world. In effect, California residents now see a college education as
having replaced a high school diploma as the minimum entry ticket to a solid job and a
In the survey, we found:
- Fully 85% strongly or somewhat agree that a college degree has become as
important as a high school diploma used to be.
- Only 13% think that it is possible to reach a point where too many people have
a college degree; the overwhelming majority (81%) believe that this is one area
where there can never be too much of a good thing.
As higher education is being seen as more important for success in today’s
economy and society, the public is also placing a premium on the significance of
preserving access to higher education for anyone who is sufficiently qualified and
motivated. In effect, Californians see access to higher education as equivalent to access
to the American dream. They believe that it is vitally important that we provide adequate
opportunities for a higher education to all qualified and motivated individuals.
Specifically, Californians do not want students to be excluded from a college education
by cost alone. Seventy-three percent strongly agree that we should not allow the price of
a college education to keep qualified and motivated students from going to college. The
percentage of Caifornians who feel this way is significantly higher today than in the
recent past, as shown in our two previous studies; fewer (66%) strongly agreed in 1993,
and this percentage dropped in 1996 to 53%.
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© 2000 The National Center for Public Policy and Higher Education