Foreword
 
Finding One
 
Finding Two
 
Finding Three
 
Finding Four
 
Illinois and the Nation at Large
 
Supporting Tables
 
Methodology
 
About the Author
 
Public Agenda
 
The National Center for Public Policy
 

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Page 3 of 11

Finding Two: Higher Education is More Than Just a Piece of Paper

Illinois residents have high expectations for what they expect students to take away from a college education. We presented our respondents with a list of factors and asked how important each was as a goal for a college education. The most commonly selected factor is that students gain a sense of maturity and learn how to manage on their own, with 72% saying that this is absolutely essential. An almost equally high percentage (70%) say that it is absolutely essential for students to learn how to get along with people different from themselves.

Although these general interpersonal skills top the list, there are a number of other skills that are rated as absolutely essential by Illinois residents, such as learning to solve problems and think analytically (64%), learning high-tech skills (64%), learning the specific expertise and knowledge in the careers they have chosen (57%), and gaining top-notch writing and speaking skills (57%).

The Illinois public also has high expectations for the administrators who run local colleges and universities. For example, 69% say it is absolutely essential for colleges to hire good teachers and researchers, and 56% stress that colleges should ensure that students work hard to achieve high standards.

Although the state's residents have high expectations about what students need to learn, they are divided about the degree to which employers reward credentials rather than ability. Forty-seven percent believe that college graduates get higher salaries because having a college degree means someone has skills and accomplishments, while an equal percentage think that employers are just impressed by a degree.

The public has high expectations, but they also seem to be pleased with the job Illinois public and private colleges and universities are doing, especially as compared to the performance of the state's high schools. Fifty-seven percent give colleges in the state an excellent or a good rating, as opposed to only 39% who give state high schools an excellent or good rating.

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