- U.S. adults have a largely positive view of higher education, according to a national survey by Boston public radio station WGBH and Abt Associates, particularly regarding its impact on their local community.
- A majority said college was either "strongly" (43%) or "somewhat" (25%) worth attending even considering its costs. However, 36% said attending college was not necessary to in order to get ahead in life.
- But they see a partisan divide: 77% of respondents said college campuses have a liberal leaning while just 15% said they lean conservative. Nearly half (47%) said this is a "major" problem, and a similar share (51%) say students aren't hearing a full range of views on campus.
- When asked if factors including athleticism, musical talent, leadership ability and overcoming hardships such as poverty or health concerns should be factors in admissions decisions, respondents overwhelmingly said yes. But when asked if race should be a consideration, 72% said no.
The report paints a slightly more positive picture of how higher education is viewed by the U.S. population than did previous surveys, according to Inside Higher Ed. Yet the survey also turned up negative impressions of how colleges are handling sexual assault and mental health concerns on campus.
A report from the Rand Corp. published in January suggests many colleges and universities are underreporting sexual assault cases on campus due to flawed reporting methods don't consider the fact that many sexual assault victims do not report sexual violence. Many campuses have continued to underreport even after being issued a fine, according to a study by the American Psychological Association. The APA analyzed the number of sexual assaults occurring on campus at 31 large universities from 2001 to 2012 and found the figure to be 44% higher than originally reported.
While investigating and responding to cases of sexual assault on campus can cost colleges and universities considerable sums, the National Bureau of Economic Research found that such publicity doesn't necessarily hamper student interest in attending the institution. The researchers note that addressing sexual misconduct on campus does not "come at the expense of broader university goals."
Meanwhile, the WGBH survey respondents' views on race as an admissions factor reflect the position of the federal government on affirmative action. This was evidenced most recently when the Justice Department wrote in favor of a group of Asian American students who are suing Harvard University over what they claim are discriminatory affirmative action admissions policies.
The students, who are seeking race-neutral admissions, also have the backing of anti-affirmative action group, Students for Fair Admissions.