What is the State of Higher Education? By John Zogby
Does the current college/university experience lead to success? John Zogby Strategies asked the public and found results that reveal a significant lack of confidence, despite all generations having grown up with the mantra that a college education is key to success.
We recently asked the question to likely American voters in a nationwide poll of 800: "Which of the following statements best supports your view about higher education?"
Statement A: "Although costly, a college/university education is paramount to securing a good future."
Statement B: "A college/university education often does not provide graduates with sufficient preparation for the workforce."
Our results reveal that just shy of a majority (50%) support the view that a college education does not equip graduates with skills necessary for the real world. On the other hand, one-third of the public say it is paramount to securing a good future, leaving 16% not sure.
The 18-29 age cohort gives the highest support for Statement A (50%), vs. one-third who select Statement B. With the progression of every age cohort, support for Statement A goes down while support for Statement B goes up.
For example, 46% of those aged 30-49 support the view that a college degree is no longer enough to ensure success, as do 53% of those aged 50-64, and 63% of folks 65 years or older. What we see here is those who are parents, and in many cases paying for their kid’s education appear to have increasingly lower sentiment for the once mighty American staple institution.
Even more alarming is the education cohort. Nearly half (49%) of those who completed a degree feel higher ed does not prepare its graduates enough for the world of work, while 40% believe it does.
What about those who are of typical college age (18-24)? Our results display no unified support. A plurality (38%) agree higher-ed is paramount to attaining success. On the flip side, 36% say colleges and universities don’t prepare workforce newcomers enough, and still, 27% aren’t sure. On the one hand, it is understandable that those of college age wouldn’t have the experience to know what the workforce is like, but on the other hand, the numbers still reveal a lack of confidence.
Perhaps the most important angle comes from the income cohort. Those who make $75K+ are more likely to view college/university education positively at 42%. But 47% agree it does not prepare graduates enough for the workforce.
Those in the middle, making $35K – $75K agree most that a college education is not enough to get ahead (56% vs. 31%). And finally, those who make less than $35K also have a plurality who also agree colleges are not enough to get ahead with 47% in agreement vs. 32% who say higher-ed is paramount to securing a successful future.
In the final analysis, American colleges and universities are still viewed as a Mecca around the globe. Across the country, campuses both large and small, widely known or barely known, have tens of thousands with student visas flocking to classrooms every semester to secure a once widely accepted pillar of the American Dream.
However, the growing lack of confidence, as well as the following trends, need consideration if higher ed is to stay relevant. The DIY (do it yourself) phenomenon is stronger than ever as a result of social network sites like YouTube, Pinterest, and others.
This trend is prevalent in all ages, but particularly key among Millennials and Gen Z. MOOC’s (massive open online courses) are an increasingly fierce competitor. Critics of MOOC’s should look to Coursera– an institution that provides top professors and leading minds in respective fields -offering certificates at a fraction of the cost that a typical university charges.
John Zogby (@TheJohnZogby) is the founder of the Zogby Poll and Zogby companies, including John Zogby Strategies, and author of We Are Many We Are One: Neo-Tribes and Tribal Analytics in the 21st Century America.