Americans believe higher education should be reformed

Survey finds 83 percent of those polled think U.S. institutions must change to remain globally competitive

A recent survey commissioned by Northeastern University showed most Americans believe U.S. colleges need to undergo reforms to remain competitive in an international education system, even though they value the current system.

The survey, released Tuesday, found 83 percent of Americans believe “the U.S. higher education system needs to change to remain competitive with other countries around the world,” even while 75 percent ranked the United States’ college system ahead of other countries’.

The survey, conducted last October by the global business advisory firm FTI Consulting, interviewed 1,001 American adults by phone and 250 Americans under the age of 30 via the Internet. It has an error rate of 3.1 percent.

Respondents reported higher education played a large role in determining personal success after graduation. About 63 of phone respondents said college graduates who enter the workforce today are “more well-rounded and better prepared to meet challenges” than non-college graduates. About the same percentage of the online respondents agreed.

A large majority of those polled found college education either very important or extremely important for “finding a good job,” “being able to keep a good job,” “getting promoted or advancing your career” or “having job mobility and success throughout life.”

In addition, 86 percent agreed that college is important for “personal development” and 88 percent believed that it provides “important intellectual benefits, like critical thinking and new ways to analyze information.”

About three-quarters of those polled said the observed decline in college enrollment and graduation rates disturbed them. Roughly 75 percent said they believed that America would not be able to “remain globally competitive if these trends continue into the future.”

Northeastern University President Joseph Aoun released a statement in reaction to the study that emphasized the importance of reform to maintain a reputable American higher education system.

“In overwhelming numbers, they’re telling us that the system of today will not meet the challenges of tomorrow,” he said in the statement. “These findings are a wake-up call for those of us in higher education to renew the social compact we have always had with Americans by innovating across multiple dimensions.”

In the national phone sample of American adults 18 years or older, 48 percent of respondents had not completed college, and 52 percent had at least an associate’s degree or more. Among online respondents — aged 18-30 — 43 percent had completed a college degree and 58 percent had not.

Published November 28, 2012 in News

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