When we recently discussed Five Reasons Higher Education has Entered the Danger Zone, we focused more on discussing the causes of the problem rather than quantifying the extent of it.
Now, a Pew Research Center survey further sounds the alarm as it measures the amount of concern Americans have about higher education.
In their survey of almost 4,600 American adults, 61% of respondents said that “the higher education system in the U.S. is generally going in the wrong direction.” Only 38% said it’s heading in the “right direction.”
While reporting on this study, some media outlets have inappropriately undercut its shocking findings with a pat excuse: as the data of the study show, more Republicans hold this “wrong direction” opinion than Democrats.
For example, Inside Higher Ed’s coverage of the story emphasized this partisan distinction, as well as the survey’s findings that anti-college sentiment is more prevalent among older adults. As a result, Inside Higher Ed’s treatment implicitly associates the “wrong direction” respondents with the grumpy old “get off my lawn” crowd.
Granted, older Americans and more conservative Americans are more likely to express concerns about higher education.
But the disturbing truth of the survey is that higher education, like Jim Comey, is now disliked by a majority of both Democrats and Republicans. They only have different reasons for their contempt.
The 52% of Democrats who share the “wrong direction” view cite high tuition costs and inadequate skills preparation as the main reasons. A majority of Republicans also recognized those issues, but unlike Democrats, Republicans also cite hyper-sensitivity to offensive views and political bias of professors as significant problems:
Admissions officers and other college administrators would be worried enough if just a single side of the political spectrum–somewhere between one-third and one-half of the college-age population–were souring on college.
Now, Pew’s broad-based survey tells us that higher ed is losing respect throughout the population–just a little less on the Democrat side.