Nearly 90% of Young Alumni Say Going to College Was Worth It, Survey Finds

December 13, 2010

Young alumni generally feel positive about their undergraduate experience, and almost 90 percent of them in a recent survey said their higher education had been worth the time and money it took to obtain.

The American Council on Education commissioned the national poll about young-alumni satisfaction earlier this year, and followed it up with a similar poll of 22 institutions that volunteered to participate. Four hundred randomly selected alumni between the ages of 25 and 39 were questioned for the national survey. Another 400 in all from the 22 institutions answered identical questions.

Respondents expressed broad satisfaction with their undergraduate experience. Eighty-nine percent of respondents said their college experience had been worth it, and 85 percent said their education had prepared them at least adequately well for the jobs they now held.

About 80 percent of alumni said they would attend the same undergraduate institution if given the chance, though the number was higher at four-year than at two-year colleges.

Officials at the council and at various colleges surveyed said they were heartened by the alumni support and expressed a bit of surprise at exactly how positive respondents were about their educational experiences.

"For something that takes this much time and this much money, it still draws a nearly unanimous declaration of its value," said the council's president, Molly C. Broad.

Officials said the poll provided a strong argument against government officials who were thinking about cutting support for higher education.

"The average elected official would kill to have such a positive rating as we have in higher education," said Kevin P. Reilly, president of the University of Wisconsin system, one of the institutions that took part in the survey.

Also among the 22 institutions were New York University and Miami Dade College. The poll results, released on Monday, do not list the other participants, other than to note that the group included both four-year institutions and community colleges.

Twenty-eight percent of respondents said that the most important role for colleges and universities was to prepare students for employment, while 31 percent said teaching students how to think critically was most important.

The poll also provided interesting insight about how young alumni think about paying for college. Forty percent of respondents said students and their families should be primarily responsible for financing their higher education, while 30 percent put that responsibility on the federal government and 20 percent put it on states. Community-college students were more likely to say government should be primarily responsible.

Along the same lines, 52 percent of respondents said institutions rather than the federal or state governments should be responsible for keeping higher education affordable.

Despite rising costs over the past few years, about three-fourths of respondents said the cost of tuition was fair.