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

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Finding One: Pennsylvanians Believe That Higher Education Is Vitally Important for Success in the Contemporary World

In early 2000, Public Agenda surveyed 510 Pennsylvanians statewide to examine their attitudes toward higher education. We also held a focus group in Bala Cynwyd, a suburb of Philadelphia. In many ways, the attitudes of Pennsylvanians 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 Pennsylvania 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 Pennsylvanians differ somewhat from those of Americans generally.

For the purposes 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:
PENNSYLVANIANS BELIEVE THAT HIGHER EDUCATION IS VITALLY IMPORTANT FOR SUCCESS IN THE CONTEMPORARY WORLD.

Most people in Pennsylvania believe that a higher education is essential for a person to succeed in today's world. In effect, most Pennsylvania 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:

  • 89% strongly or somewhat agree that a college degree has become as important as a high school diploma used to be.

  • Only 23% think that it is possible to reach a point where too many people have a college degree; most (73%) 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, Pennsylvanians see access to higher education as equivalent to access to the American dream. Specifically, Pennsylvanians do not want students to be excluded from a college education by cost alone. Seventy-four 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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