The debate about whether students should go to college continues, as a recent poll shows Americans are more concerned with students entering the workforce. According to a recent RealClear survey, more than 2,000 registered U.S. voters believe preparing students for the workforce is more critical than readying them for college. Americans also think students should have knowledge of American history and should strive to become well-informed U.S. citizens. Thanks to drastic increases in tuition and student debt, U.S. voters are becoming more distrustful of traditional four-year colleges.
What The Survey Says
Public opinion and analytics first SocialSphere Inc. co-founder Jonathan Chavez weighed in on the results of the survey. Chavez stated during a conference call, “what’s being talked about in Washington is not always what’s being talked about in the rest of America.” Chavez is responsible for creating the survey. The results showed that the top three priorities for students in public schools were learning how to read and write, becoming good citizens, and remaining safe from violence and physical harm. Entering the workforce came in fourth while going to college ranked third to last.
This survey comes at the heels of several 2020 Democratic candidates vowing to eliminate all existing student debt while also making public college free. Democratic presidential candidate Andrew Yang even proposed an alternative policy on his campaign website, which promotes vocational education. Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders introduced the College For All Act, which would provide at least $48 billion per year to states and tribes to eliminate existing debt. Additionally, the Act would require the federal government to cover 67 percent of the cost of eliminating tuition and fees. Sen. Sanders promised that the Act would cover the full cost of education for the neediest students in America.
Too Much Debt
U.S. student loan borrowers collectively owe $1.6 trillion in federal and private student loans, according to the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System. In 2018, sixty-five percent of college students graduated with debt. According to NerdWallet’s 2018 household study, the average U.S. household owed $47,671 in student debt. Lawmakers have recently called for an expansion of the income-driven repayment program, which caps payments at 10 percent of discretionary income. However, student retention remains an issue for lawmakers as existing students are at risk of quitting college because of financial problems.
As more alternative options become available, the argument for going to college becomes less prevalent. Social media sites such as YouTube has made it easier to learn a new skill without having to pay high tuition cost. Online MBA programs are reducing the number of students studying for MBAs in traditional four-year universities. RealClearPolitics Washington Bureau Chief Carl Cannon added fuel to the debate during a conference call discussing the results of the survey. Cannon stated that “the presumption that four-year college is the necessary next step is not … for everyone.”
Cannon also went on to explain that promoting free college and canceling all existing debt would depend on the framing of such issues. Cannon feared that free college wouldn’t appeal to voters, but by acknowledging the burden of high tuition and presenting ideas to bring it down would get the attention of them. Cannon’s comments relate to how the survey found that most registered voters were dissatisfied with the U.S. educational system overall. Only 13 percent believed the system would improve by 2040.
As the presidential debate draws near, the student debt issue will continue to be a prevalent topic of discussion, one that could very well shape the future of students in America.