Are Americans Losing Faith in College Degrees?

Oct 5, 2017 at 12:00am ET By Alyssa Walker

 Last month, a poll from NBC News and the Wall Street Journal revealed that Americans are losing faith in college degrees.  

The survey found that 49 percent of Americans agreed that a four-year degree “is worth the cost because people have a better chance to get a good job and earn more money over their lifetime.”  

It also found that 47 percent agreed that a four-year degree isn’t worth the cost “because people often graduate without specific job skills and with a large amount of debt to pay off.”  

One cause? The perception of 18-34-year-olds of what a college degree means.  Only 39 percent say that a four-year degree is worth it, while 57 percent disagree.  In 2013, those numbers were reversed.  

Another factor? Income and education levels contribute to this perception.  

Those most likely to argue that a four-year degree isn’t worth it? Rural residents (66 percent), white working-class Americans (65 percent), and those with limited college (58 percent).  

Those most likely to argue that it’s worth it? Those with a college degree (61 percent), those with a postgraduate degree (66 percent), those who earn high incomes (60 percent), and non-whites (56 percent).  

The data diverges more based on gender.  Fifty-three percent of men argue that a college degree isn’t worth the cost, while 41 percent of women agree with them.  

Your takeaway? Figure out what you want—or don’t want—from a college degree, and what you plan to do with it.  Then make your decision.  

Learn more about earning your undergraduate degree.

Alyssa Walker is a freelance writer, educator, and nonprofit consultant. She lives in the White Mountains of New Hampshire with her family.

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