- The general public knows college is expensive and many students must work to afford attendance, but fewer are aware most students live off-campus, are financially independent and one-quarter are parents, according to a new report from Higher Learning Advocates.
- The report examines perceptions of today's college students among the general public and higher education insiders. Americans ages 65 and older are significantly less aware of who participates in higher education today.
- Higher education insiders, who include institution leaders and policymakers, were more knowledgeable of the experiences and concerns of today's college students than the American public. However, Republicans were generally less aware than Democrats of financial disparities among students.
How the general public, institution leaders and policymakers view higher education is becoming more important in today's increasingly partisan political climate. A Sarah Lawrence College politics professor recently shared an essay in The New York Times outlining results from a survey of 900 student affairs professionals that showed members of the group tended to identify as liberal. He suggested the bias unduly influences students.
A 2017 survey from the Pew Research Center notes growing concern among conservatives that higher education is having a negative effect on current events in the U.S. The share of Republican or right-leaning respondents who have a favorable view of colleges fell from 54% in 2015 to 36% in 2017. The trend was slightly more significant among members of that group with some college or less, falling from 57% in 2015 to 37% in 2017.
The partisan divide in examining the value of higher education today has revealed itself in several other surveys, including a recent Gallup poll.
Recent research shows that students whose coursework was more applicable to their career goals and lives after graduation tended to view their college experience more favorably. With that satisfaction as a potential outcome, many colleges are orienting their curriculum around addressing skills that are in-demand in the workplace.