What Americans say about…

The value of a degree: Is a college degree worth the cost?

Hand in hand with support for tuition assistance, the public sees value in educational attainment.

Many Americans may be uncertain if they can afford college bills, but most are convinced that college degrees are worth the expense. In the 2018 PDK poll, more than 60% say a degree from a two-year community college prepares someone for a good-paying job in today’s economy. That rises sharply if it’s a four-year college degree, master’s degree, or Ph.D. — more than 80% in each case say those prepare students for a good-paying job.

Strength of sentiment differs — just 9% are “very” confident that a community college degree helps get a good job, and 22% say so about a bachelor’s. That rises to 44% for a master’s degree and 49% for a Ph.D.

Those with four-year degrees or higher are more skeptical about community colleges — 54% see them as good preparation for a good job vs. 65% of those with less education. Still, no more than 1 in 10 in either group says a community college degree will prepare someone very well.

Pdkpoll K19A Degree Prep

College graduates (92%) are more likely than those without a college degree (81%) to see a postgraduate degree as good preparation. Adults who have postgraduate education are 10 points more likely to see a master’s as good preparation than a Ph.D., a difference not seen in other groups.

Another way of looking at the cost-benefit equation is to assess whether a four-year college degree is “a key to future success” or “not worth the cost.” Sixty-one percent overall say it’s crucial to future success, and 70% of nonwhites agree. There’s a 20-point gap on this question between those who have graduated from college and those who have not: 75% of college graduates say the degree is key to future success; 55% of adults who lack college degrees agree. That difference is driven by whites, particularly white men. White men with college degrees are keener on further education: 73% say it’s key; 26% say it’s not worth the cost. Just 41% of white men without a college degree say it’s worth it; 56% say it’s not. Majorities of white women say college is key to success, regardless of whether they have a degree.

Share these results: