More Americans are regarding a college education as necessary, but fewer are regarding college as accessible for everyone according to survey results released today by Public Agenda and the National Center for Public Policy and Higher Education. While the economy is likely a factor, these trends have been ongoing since at least 2000, even during times of relative economic strength.
In the latest survey, conducted in December 2008, 55 percent of Americans regard a college education as not only advantageous but essential for success in today's work world. Meanwhile, 67 percent of respondents believed that many qualified people don't have the opportunity to go to college. 63 percent believed that college costs are going up faster than other costs, and 53 percent believe that colleges could reduce tuition while still offering a high-quality education.
While 74 percent believed that cost should not deter students from attending college, concern is growing about the availability of financial aid and the extent of students' reliance on student loans. 67 percent (up from 60 percent in 2007) believed that students were borrowing too much to pay for school, while 22 percent (up from 15 percent in 2007) believed that sufficient financial aid was not available to everyone who needed it.
While public perception does not always accurately reflect reality, these survey results do suggest that more needs to be done to make college affordable or to inform the public about grants, scholarships, and campus-based and federal student financial aid. College scholarships and grants are still out there, and they're not just for A students or the exceptionally needy. Complete a FAFSA (a free application for federal student aid) and conduct a free scholarship search to see what's available for you.