Finding One
Finding Two
Finding Three
Finding Four
Illinois and the Nation at Large
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The National Center for Public Policy

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Finding One: Illinois Residents Believe That Higher Education Is Vitally Important For Success In The Contemporaty World.

In early 2000, Public Agenda surveyed 501 Illinois residents statewide to determine their attitudes toward higher education. In addition, we held a focus group with African-Americans parents in Chicago. In many ways, the attitudes of Illinois residents regarding higher education are strikingly similar to the views of the nation as a whole, as revealed in our broader 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 Illinois research, which are also supported by what we found nationwide.

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.

Finding One:

Most people in Illinois believe that a higher education is essential for a person to succeed in today's world. In effect, Illinois residents now see a college education as having replaced a high school diploma as the minimum entry ticket to a solid job and a middle-class lifestyle.

In the survey we found:

  • Fully 88% strongly or somewhat agree that a college degree has become as important as a high school diploma used to be.
  • Only 17% think that it is possible to reach a point where too many people have a college degree; the overwhelming majority (79%) 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, Illinois residents 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 higher education to all qualified and motivated individuals. Specifically, Illinois residents do not want students to be excluded from a college education by cost alone. Seventy-five percent strongly agree that we should not allow the price of a college education to keep qualified and motivated students from going to college.


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