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Americans have lost confidence in higher education, poll finds

Most of the participants who said they lack confidence in colleges believe they are "too liberal" and don't let students think for themselves, according to the Gallup survey.
College Campus
Posted at 9:52 AM, Jul 09, 2024

The number of Americans who have little or no confidence in higher education has increased — with many saying they believe colleges are trying to “brainwash” students or are not teaching relevant skills, according to a new Gallup poll.

The number of adults who have a lot of confidence (36%), some confidence (32%) or little to no confidence (32%) in college degrees is now almost equally divided.

Gallup first conducted this poll in 2015. At the time, only 10% had little or no confidence in higher education, compared to 57% of adults who did.

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The biggest drop in confidence came from Republicans, according to Gallup. About a decade ago, 56% of Republicans were very confident about higher education and only 11% were not as confident. Now, those numbers are 20% and 50%, respectively.

While Republicans showed the most significant change in their attitude toward higher education, all of the subgroups surveyed, including Democrats and Independents, showed a drop in confidence.

A majority of those who said they have little to no confidence in higher education — 41% — described colleges as being “too liberal” and trying to “indoctrinate” students or not allowing them to think for themselves, said Gallup.

The second most common reason for lacking confidence in colleges and institutions was that college degrees don’t mean as much as they used to and graduates aren’t able to find employment, the participants said. The price of higher education and student loan debt was a concern for 28% of the participants.

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On the flip side, 27% of those who said they have a positive attitude toward college degrees said they believe it’s important for individuals to be educated. Nearly as many participants said degrees provide more opportunities for success, and 19% said higher education teaches thinking for oneself and respecting different points of view.

In general, adults in the U.S. do not believe higher education is on a positive path, with 68% saying it’s headed in the wrong direction.

Interestingly, Gallup said Americans are significantly more confident in two-year colleges than in four-year colleges.

The results are from a Gallup telephone survey conducted between June 3 and June 23 in partnership with the Lumina Foundation, as well as a web survey of more than 2,000 Gallup Panel members, according to the analytics company.

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