Is College Too Pricey To Pay Off? 57% of Americans Say Yes

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Don Hammond / Design Pics / Corbis

A Pew Research Center report titled “Is College Worth It?” released Sunday shows a majority of Americans think colleges fail to deliver enough bang for their buck.

Of 2,142 adults surveyed, 57% said the higher education system in the U.S. fails to provide students with good value for the money they and their families spend. An even larger group (75%) said college is too expensive for most Americans to afford.

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While the price tag may be high — this year’s college grads are the most indebted in history — still, an overwhelming majority (86%) report college was a good investment for them personally.

Part of that reasoning seems to stem from perceived earnings. Adults who graduated from a four-year college believe as a result they are earning $20,000 more a year, on average. Similarly, the survey found adults who did not attend college believe they are earning $20,000 less per year. Those estimates are very close to the 2010 U.S. Census findings that show the median gap in earnings between high school and college grads is $19,550.

Here are some other striking findings:

— Among those graduates who leave college with a substantial debt burden, 48% say paying off student loans made it harder to pay other bills; 25% say college debt made it harder to buy a home and 24% say the debt impacted their career choices

— Among adults who are not in school and do not have a bachelor’s degree, 48% say they cannot afford to go to college; two-thirds say the reason is because they need to support a family

The Pew Center also surveyed the presidents of 1,055 two-year and four-year private, public and for-profit colleges and universities. Here’s what they had to say:

— While six out of 10 college presidents said higher education in the U.S. is headed in the right direction, a substantial number (38%) say it is headed in the wrong direction

— 58% say public high school students arrive at college less prepared than students a decade ago; only 6% of those presidents surveyed said students arrive more prepared

— 52% say college students study less than students a decade ago

— Just 19% of college presidents say the U.S. higher education system is the best in the world; only 7% say it will be the best in the world 10 years from now

The full report is available for download here.

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