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For Those Without One, College Degrees Are Seen as Important but Too Expensive

December 9, 2015

The Chronicle of Higher Education summarized a survey of adults without a college degree found that the vast majority – 84% – believe that some form of postsecondary education is needed to get a good job. But just 60% of respondents agreed or strongly agreed that a college education was worth the cost.

When asked to estimate the cost of tuition and fees at a local community college, 51% overestimated the cost, and about 28% were unable to even make an estimate. Exaggeration of the student debt ‘crisis’ by the news media may be at least partially to blame for these findings. A Hamilton Place Strategies report demonstrated, for instance, that the average level of student debt reported in news coverage is $85,400, a gross exaggeration of the actual average student debt level of $29,400.

Whatever the cause, higher education is more commonly (and incorrectly) perceived as financially unattainable. If this trend continues to impact enrollment decisions, it threatens to impair not only non-graduates’ financial well-being, but the vitality and stability of the American economy itself.