More Americans are questioning if college is worth it

backside graduation hats during commencement success graduates of the university, Concept education congratulation.
backside graduation hats during commencement success graduates of the university, Concept education congratulation. Photo credit Getty Images

It's no secret that the cost of college in the United States has gotten out of hand, as the outstanding federal student loan balance has reached $1.620 trillion among 43 million borrowers with an average federal student loan debt balance of $37,667 per person, according to Education Data Initiative.

With the average cost of a four-year college currently at $35,331 per student per year, many people are beginning to doubt the positive impacts college has on the United States.

Only 55% of Americans feel that colleges and universities have a positive impact on the country, as the belief has dropped by 14 percentage points since 2020, according to the think tank New America's Varying Degrees 2022 survey.

The survey was conducted this past spring and questioned over 1,500 Americans who were 18 and older. The survey's margin of error was +/- 3.47%.

Taking a deeper look at who believed college and universities have a positive impact on the country, 73% of Democrats thought that they did, while only 37% of Republicans felt college has had a positive impact in the U.S.

The survey also listed different types of higher education, ranging from public community colleges to for-profit colleges and universities, and asked people which type are worth the cost. 81% believed that public community colleges were worth the cost, and 67% felt the same for public four-year colleges and universities.

However, just 53% of people felt that private non-profit colleges and universities were worth the cost, and even less (41%) believed that for-profit colleges and universities were worth it.

The survey then asked, "Who should be more responsible for funding higher education?" The participants were given the options of either the government "because it is good for society" or students themselves "because they personally benefit." The 2022 results showed that 57% of people believed the government should be responsible, while 41% think the students should be responsible for the cost -- as the results were identical to 2021.

Although, those numbers are down from 2019 and 2020 when 63% believed the government should be funding higher education, compared to 35% saying it should be on the students. 77% of Democrats believe that the government should cover the cost of higher education, while only 36% of Republicans felt that way.

"Even though the share of Americans saying that the government should fund higher education because it is good for society has declined since 2019, a strong majority still say that states (80 percent) and the federal government (78 percent) should spend more tax dollars on educational opportunities after high school to make them more affordable," the survey findings said.

Overall, 30% of people believed that a Bachelor's degree was the minimum level of education needed to ensure financial security for an immediate or close family member. 27% said it was just a high school diploma or GED, while 18% said technical certificate, and 16% said Associate degree. Only 7% believed the minimum education needed was a Master's degree, and just 2% thought it was a doctoral or other professional degree.

Only about half of people in the survey (52%) agreed that Americans can get an affordable, high-quality education after high school, while 49% of Democrats believed that compared to 60% of Republicans.

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