Most Americans no longer think that college is worth the cost

The Wall Street Journal and NORC released poll results on Mar. 31 showing that only 42 percent of Americans think that college is worth the cost.

Crushing student loan debt, the disruption of the pandemic, low graduation rates, and the 'dogmatic left-wing religion' on campuses are suggested as reasons behind the dissatisfaction with degrees.

Americans’ faith in college has reached a ten-year low, according to a new poll from The Wall Street Journal (WSJ) and NORC. 

The WSJ reported results from over 1,000 respondents on Mar. 31. Since 2013, The WSJ and NORC, a data and research center at the University of Chicago, have documented the dwindling percentage of Americans who think that college is worth its cost. In the latest poll, only 42 percent of respondents say that it is. 

Crushing student loan debt, the disruption of the COVID-19 pandemic, and low graduation rates are cited by The WSJ’s report as possible reasons behind Americans’ pessimism. 

Bryan Caplan, a George Mason University economist, told The WSJ that “[c]olleges have squandered a lot of good will by pushing a dogmatic left-wing religion.”

[RELATED: Value of graduate degrees is going down, reports argue]

Caplan also says that the reputation of higher education took a hit when colleges went online during the pandemic but charged students in-person tuition. Over 70 colleges face lawsuits from students and former students who allege that the value of these classes did not match what they paid.  

Dissatisfaction about college degrees appears to transcend age and gender with “[w]omen and older Americans … driving the decline in confidence,” according to The WSJ. The exception is Democrats, degree holders, and respondents earning at least six figures–categories in which most respondents see college as a path to a good job and high income. 

For The WSJ, the poll signals “a profound shift for higher education in the years ahead.” 

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There is already a profound shift in the newfound approach to college as a means to prepare students for the workforce. Recent reports suggest that a college education is no longer what Heather Mac Donald called “the non-political transmission of Western civilization” in a previous interview with Campus Reform

Fewer students are pursuing the liberal arts, so colleges are eliminating theology, English, and other majors that are less likely to market themselves according to their return on investment (ROI) in the job market. 

The rise of alternative credentials, The WSJ reported, coincides with the decline in enrollment as students realize that they can gain skills in a fraction of the time and expense of a four-year degree. 

High school students and their families are more career-oriented, too, according to an Apr. 4 report in University Business. A 2021 survey showed that respondents ranked college readiness number 47 in what they found important in K-12 education. 

“Practical, tangible skills ranked number one,” University Business writes. “For high schoolers who are still eager to enroll in college, both parents and students are more motivated to apply for a college or university whose programs best align with students’ career interests, not the academic reputation of the school.”

Campus Reform contacted all relevant parties listed for comment and will update this article accordingly.