A Wall Street Journal-NORC poll, released on Friday, shows that most Americans do not think a college education is worth the high price tag.
According to the poll, 56% of Americans believe that the cost of attending college outweighs its benefits, while 42% think it is worth it.
56% of Americans polled by the WSJ said that a four-year college degree was not worth the cost, a record high. pic.twitter.com/cUCwaDY3YK
— Charlie Bilello (@charliebilello) March 31, 2023
The poll also found that Democrats, individuals with college degrees and those earning over $100,000 per year were more likely to view obtaining a four-year college degree as worthwhile.
Meanwhile, individuals between the ages of 18 and 34 were more likely to express skepticism about the value of a college education.
Ted Mitchell, American Council on Education president, weighed in on the poll results. “These findings are indeed sobering for all of us in higher education and in some ways, a wake-up call. We need to do a better job at storytelling, but we need to improve our practice. That seems to me to be the only recipe I know of regaining public confidence,” he said.
According to the Wall Street Journal, 42% of respondents who had earned a college degree believe that attending college is not worth the cost, which is a 10% increase from the demographic’s response during two previous polls conducted in the past decade.
The percentage of Americans who believe that a college education is not worth the cost has been increasing since 2013. In that year, 53% of respondents said that college was worth the expense, while by 2017, this number had decreased to 49%.
Mitchell suggested that the shift in Americans’ views could be due to student debt and a college graduation rate of only 60%.
According to research conducted by the National Student Clearinghouse, college enrollment has yet to recover to pre-pandemic levels. The fall 2022 semester saw a decrease of 1.1 million students compared to the enrollment numbers from fall 2019.
Adam Kissel, visiting fellow on higher education reform at the Heritage Foundation, explained that the lack of recovery in college enrollment could be attributed to the pandemic-era mandates, which highlighted the authoritarian and irrational nature of colleges.
“Pandemic-era mandates proved that colleges are often authoritarian, irrational and not any fun, so many high school students chose to delay college or chose other paths. That’s a main reason we saw a larger dip in recent years and some recovery this academic year,” stated Kissel.
According to the WSJ, the poll was conducted in partnership with the NORC at the University of Chicago, an independent research institute and was conducted between March 1 and March 13. It polled 1,019 people through a primarily online format.