The Price of Admission: The Growing Importance of Higher Education
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In recent years, education has been at or near the top of the public’s concerns and it has been a major priority for the president and many of the nation’s governors. When leaders and the public speak of education, however, their main concern has typically been the nation’s K–12 schools. Today, the focus is turning to higher education (including both two-year and four-year colleges and universities). As America moves into the knowledge intensive world of the future, a college education will continue to take on much of the importance that a high school education had a generation ago; the growing importance of a higher education has spawned greater public attention and concern. To examine these issues, Public Agenda surveyed 700 Americans nationwide in February 1998. The respondents were specifically told that the questions about higher education referred to both two-year and four-year higher education, and to both public and private colleges and universities. These closed-ended interviews were also supplemented with in depth follow-up interviews with a number of the respondents. Because many of the same survey questions were also asked in 1993, the research shows not only what Americans think today but how their attitudes have changed and evolved in the last five years. This study was the first in a series of studies that Public Agenda conducted in collaboration with the National Center for Public Policy and Higher Education.