US High Schoolers See Less ‘Value’ in College Degrees, Survey Shows

WASHINGTON (CITC) - March 27, 2024 6:03 am

U.S. high schoolers are beginning to question the “value” of pursuing college degrees, according to a survey released this month.

The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation-commissioned study surveyed high school juniors and seniors nationwide, as well as high school graduates aged 18 to 30 currently not enrolled in higher education. Respondents were asked to, among other things, indicate whether they see “excellent/good value” in certain educational paths.

Both current high school students and non-enrolled high school graduates indicated they feel “on the job training” has the highest value, with 83% and 77% respectively regarding it as “excellent/good.” Courses to receive licenses and courses to receive professional certificates ranked second and third in value to respondents, respectively.

The value of college degrees fell to the middle of the pack, with 72% of current students saying four-year degrees have an “excellent/good” value. Only 57% of non-enrolled graduates said the same, representing a three-point decline from the previous year. Just under 70% of current students called the value of a two-year degree “excellent/good,” while 63% of non-enrolled graduates agreed.

The data isn’t surprising to Nicholas Giordano, a Campus Reform higher education fellow and Suffolk Community College professor, who told Crisis in the Classroom (CITC) his profession has “decimate[d] itself through a number of self-inflicted wounds” recently.

“Most surveys show that Americans have lost an enormous amount of confidence in the education system, and parents, students, and employers have begun to recalibrate their approaches,” Giordano said. “This is what happens when merit, hard work, and critical thinking are discouraged.”

Angela Morabito, a spokesperson for the Defense of Freedom Institute, echoed the sentiments, telling CITC high schoolers are beginning to see college is not “the only on-ramp to a successful career.”

“Soon, colleges are going to have to address the fact that their costs have skyrocketed and, for many students, outpaced the value they provide,” Morabito said.

The survey also revealed only 58% of current high schoolers and 51% of non-enrolled graduates agree with the statement “these days, a good job requires a college degree.”

Undergraduate enrollment is in the midst of a decade-long decline, according to data from the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES). In 2021, overall enrollment was determined to be 14.6% less than in 2010. Private for-profit colleges lost more students than public institutions during that time, according to the data.


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