Introduction
 
Finding One
 
Finding Two
 
Finding Three
 
Finding Four
 
Finding Five
 
Endnotes
 
Methodology
 
About the National Center
 
About Public Agenda
 
About the Author
 
Acknowledgments

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Finding One: The Importance of Higher Education

Americans believe that higher education is more important than it ever has been, both as a key to a middle-class lifestyle and as a resource for the local economy.

In the minds of many Americans, a college education has taken on the status that a high school diploma had a number of years ago. For an overwhelming percentage of Americans, a college education is a necessary prerequisite for a good job and a solid middle-class lifestyle; our findings also show that this emphasis on the importance of a higher education has increased even in the last five years.2 A man from Altoona, Pennsylvania, put it this way: ãMost everything is getting to be so high-tech today that a high school diploma just wonât cut it. When I was in school you could graduate high school and be a pretty good auto mechanic. Today the cars are so full of electronics that you have to go to college just to be able to work on a car.ä

The public sees higher education not only as a benefit for the individual but for the local economy. Furthermore, a majority of the public is satisfied that colleges are, in fact, teaching students important things. While people still worry that too many students are wasting their time in college, this is somewhat less of a concern now than it was in the past.


Importance of Higher Education

 

1998 1993
Which comes closer to your view?
  High school graduates should go on to college because in the long run theyâll have better job prospects. 86% 79%
 
OR
High school graduates should take any decent job offer because there are so many unemployed people already. 9 13
 
Getting a college education is more important than it was ten years ago. 75 NA
 
Which comes closer to your view?
  This state needs more college-educated workers so that the state can attract high-tech jobs and businesses. 60 52
 
OR
  This state already has too many college graduates who are competing for scarce jobs. 30 38
 
In general, would you say colleges and universities:
  Are teaching students the important things they need to know?* 53 54
 
OR
  Are failing to teach them the important things they need to know?* 28 33
 
Very/somewhat serious problem that:
  Many young people are just wasting their time and money in college because they donât know what else to do with their lives.* 59 67
 
* Wording on this question varies slightly between Public Agendaâs 1993 and 1998 studies.

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