The Importance of Higher Education

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The Importance of Higher Education|

In the view of most Americans, a college education has now taken on the importance that a high school education had in the past, and has become a necessary ingredient for a good job and comfortable lifestyle. This value is shared even more widely among African-American and Hispanic parents.*

* 84% say that it is extremely (37%) or very (47%) important to have a college degree in order to get ahead.1 * 87% strongly (68%) or somewhat (19%) agree that a college education has become as important as a high school diploma used to be.2 * 76% say that the country can never have too many college graduates; only 18% say it's possible to reach a point where too many people have a college degree.3 * 77% say that getting a college education today is more important than it was ten years ago.4 * 62% of parents of high school students say that a college education is absolutely necessary for their child to get; another 35% say it's helpful but not necessary, and only 3% say it's not that important.5 * 66% of those who did not go to college wish that they had,6 and 62% of those who did not go to college feel that having gone to college would have made a significant difference in their current standard of living.7 This is not to say, however, that Americans believe a college education guarantees success, or that a lack of a college education condemns people to failure. For example, 67% say that there are still many ways to succeed in today's work world without a college education.8

Hispanic parents and African-American parents stress the importance of higher education in even higher numbers than white parents, or the population at large (see Table 1).

Preparation for jobs and career is seen as the primary role for higher education, but the public also stresses the importance of general skills such as maturity and getting along with others.

* 78% strongly agree (38%) or agree (40%) that college is not...
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