Pew: Almost half of adults say the importance of a college degree has declined

Dive Brief:

  • Only a quarter of adults said having a four-year degree is a “very or extremely” important part of getting a well-paid job, according to new polling from the Pew Research Center. 
  • Another 35% said a degree is somewhat important. But 40% of those surveyed rated it as “not too or not at all” important.
  • Respondents also indicated a decline in the perceived value of college, with 49% saying that a four-year degree is less important to get a well-paying job now than it was two decades ago. About a third, 32%, said it is now more important. 

Dive Insight:

Discussion around the value of higher education is increasingly part of the zeitgeist, with prospective students expressing concern that a postsecondary education will leave them saddled with debt. 

In a 2023 survey, 57% of 18- to 30-year-olds without a college diploma said that a four-year degree is a good or excellent value. That’s down slightly from 60% in 2022.

The latest polling from Pew shows even starker attitudes.

A little under half of those surveyed, 47%, said the cost of a four-year degree is worth it only if the student does not have to take out loans. 

Just 22% said the cost is worthwhile if the student needs to take on debt. And 29% say the cost of college is not worth it, even if a student could graduate without loans. Pollsters interviewed just over 5,200 adults from Nov. 27 to Dec. 3.

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author avatar
Celia French

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