Republicans and Democrats agree that higher education institutions, especially private colleges and universities, need serious reform, according to a survey released Monday.
New America conducted a survey to investigate how Americans of either political party really feel about higher education, and nearly 70 percent of respondents indicated that higher education needs to change. “Republicans and Democrats are in total agreement here,” New America higher education research deputy director Rachel Fishman said in a statement, Inside Higher Ed reported.
New America dedicates itself to “renewing America by continuing the quest to realize our nation’s highest ideals, honestly confronting the challenges caused by rapid technological and social change, and seizing the opportunities those changes create,” according to its website.
The group surveyed a random sample of 1,600 adults older than 18 years between Jan. 18 and Feb. 8, 2018. The survey was conducted through a landline and cell phone poll in all states across America and has a margin of error of plus or minus 4.3 percentage points.
A majority of respondents said that community colleges and public universities are worth the cost that families spend to send their kids to college. Two in five respondents thought that private for-profit universities are worth the cost. The cost of attending private university continues to rise, plaguing many students with mountains of loans they must fight to pay the rest of their lives. Private nonprofit four-year institutions’ average tuition and fees increased by 1.9 percent in 2017 and 2018, according to Inside Higher Ed.
Ninety percent of respondents supported workforce-based programs like apprenticeships. The majority of respondents also indicated that higher education benefits the public and that the government should find ways to make it more affordable.
Previous studies have indicated Republicans no longer regard higher education positively, but New America’s survey shows differently. Republicans think that reform is necessary, however, almost two-thirds are willing to spend more tax dollars on higher education. Likewise, Democrats also agreed that while reform is needed, attending college presents better future opportunities than not attending. Eighty percent of respondents agreed that “there are more opportunities for people who pursue education after high school.”
“While past studies have suggested Republicans feel negatively about higher education, the new Varying Degrees survey tells a slightly different and much more complex story,” Fishman said, pointing to a 2017 Pew Research Center study. “The priorities of either party cannot be reduced to a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ in terms of government investment in education beyond high school. That insight opens up a great deal of opportunity for continued discussion and collaboration.”
Pew found that 58 percent of Republicans viewed college education negatively, while only 19 percent of Democrats had a negative view of higher education as of July 2017. Thirty-six percent of GOP voters regarded higher education positively where 72 percent of Democrats had a positive opinion about higher education.
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