• September 2, 2015

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

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.


1. blue_state_academic - December 13, 2010 at 04:00 pm

An important caveat: The survey was of *graduates* of these institutions. This begs the question of whether the responses would have been as high if the survey included those students who started an education at these institutions, but never completed it. You can see more about it at http://www.acenet.edu/AM/Template.cfm?Section=Press_Releases2&TEMPLATE=/CM/ContentDisplay.cfm&CONTENTID=39316

2. mbelvadi - December 13, 2010 at 05:49 pm

Wow, someone needs to study basic psychology. '"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.' Every heard of "cognitive dissonance theory"?
It would be surprising for something that takes that much time and money NOT to have a nearly unanimous declaration of value.

3. jonillson - December 13, 2010 at 09:43 pm

I suspect self-selection--why would an institution volunteer to participate in such a survey unless they were reasonably assured of receiving positive marks from their alumni?

Also, twenty-two institutions? Within the SUNY system alone there are three times that number of campuses. You can't possibly claim the results of this survey ("poll") are in any way generalizable.

4. moongate - December 14, 2010 at 10:01 am

CHE readers simply don't like good news, do they? Is there any indication the numbers would be different at SUNY? For my own part, I am very in debt, my job is only tangentially related to my degree, does not pay particularly well--but yeah, going to college was worth it, in no small part because of how it helped my poor underdeveloped brain develop a little.

We are so focused on jobs these days we tend to overlook the other aspects that a college education brings.

I do agree that we should poll those who did not finish and ask them if they regretted not finishing.

5. martisco - December 14, 2010 at 11:38 am

And 90% of everything is crap.

6. texasmusic - December 15, 2010 at 11:07 am

In addition to those who didn't complete the poll, what about those who had to borrow heavily? Is it worth it now? I would say I wouldn't have been able to get my current job without my degrees. But worth it? Not necessarily. My salary in no way makes up for my student loan debt. I like my job, but I like being able to pay my bills too. Surely these don't have to be mutually exclusive. But in my case, they are now. I think it's safe to say there are a lot of factors not taken into account with this "study" and that the results appear to be mere spin.

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