Reputation of online education soars, survey finds


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Diving brief:

  • Nearly half of adults in the United States, 47%, think online education is about the same quality as in-person education, up sharply from around a third who said the same thing last year, according to survey data released Tuesday by left-wing thinker Char New America.
  • But four in five respondents said online education should cost less than in-person education, the investigation found. More generally, people are almost evenly divided on whether students can benefit from an affordable, high-quality education after high school.
  • The belief that higher education benefits the United States is on the decline. In 2020, 69% of New America survey respondents said colleges had a positive effect. This year, only 55% said that. Democrats were much more likely than Republicans to say higher education was positive, 73% versus 37%.

Overview of the dive:

New America has been collecting data for its Varying Degrees survey for six years. It covers a period of significant change in the United States, including divisive election cycles, the coronavirus pandemic, a reckoning with racism spurred by the police killing of George Floyd, and economic turmoil.

In light of these changes, New America argues that views on higher education have changed little.

“While there has been relative consistency in Americans’ views on educational opportunities after high school, there are signs over the past two years that positivity has declined somewhat,” a report said. on the investigation.

But various data points reveal significant changes over time, partisan divisions and different experiences based on race.

Most respondents, 64%, said American adults need some type of post-secondary education for financial security. Just over a quarter said a bachelor’s degree or higher was required. Republicans were more likely than Democrats to say a high school diploma was enough to generate financial security.

Similarly, 76% of respondents rated education after high school as a good return on investment for students. That share has remained largely stable since data collection began in 2017. But again, Republicans were less likely to favor higher education than Democrats.

Well over half of respondents said the government should do more to fund higher education, with 80% saying states should spend more taxpayer dollars to make higher education more affordable and 78% saying the federal government should.

However, public colleges and minority-serving institutions are the only segments of higher education that should receive taxpayers’ money, according to most respondents. About eight in 10 said they were comfortable with the idea of ​​taxpayers’ money being spent on public community colleges, 68% supported such spending on public four-year universities, and 63% said that they should be spent on institutions serving minorities.

Less than half of respondents, 45%, were comfortable with taxpayer dollars going to private, nonprofit colleges. That was even higher than the 33% who supported public money for for-profit colleges.

A substantial majority said colleges should lose access to some government funding if they perform poorly — 78% supported restrictions based on low graduation rates, 73% supported restrictions based on graduates earned a living wage and 70% favored withdrawing funding when students had high levels. debt relative to their income.

A third of people in debt owe more than when they first borrowed. A third of borrowers have defaulted on their loans at some point, the data shows. Even more borrowers who are black or earn low wages have defaulted at some point – 46% of black borrowers have defaulted, as have 48% of borrowers earning less than $30,000 a year.

The survey also offers insight into optional test admissions policies, which have spread widely during the pandemic. Only 6% of respondents said ACT or SAT scores should be required and widely used in admissions, while 38% said they should be required but used in combination with indicators such as grades.

On the other hand, 42% said test scores should be optional and used in combination with grades. Only 11% supported banning test scores and requiring colleges to use other information in admissions.

New America interviewed more than 1,500 adults in April and May for the survey. The think tank oversampled several relatively small groups — Blacks, Latinxes, Asian Americans, and student borrowers — to get statistically reliable information about them.

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