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Americans Believe That A College Degree Is Essential For Quality Employment

August 22, 2011

College graduate and workers in different occupationsA new poll has found that most Americans agree that a college education is integral to attaining quality careers.

The study, conducted by Gallup and Lumina Foundation for Education, found that 69 percent of U.S. adults polled strongly agreed or disagreed that having a college degree is essential for getting a good job in this country.

"Even with the wild gyrations on Wall Street this summer, Americans still believe that the road to greater economic prosperity for themselves and our country comes through education," said Jamie Merisotis, Lumina Foundation President and CEO, in a press release. "Postsecondary degree completion provides the best path forward for a brighter future."

The survey results also indicated that 86 percent of respondents said they attended college to earn more money or get a good job. Moreover, despite the difficulties many face finding employment during these difficult economic times, about half of the respondents said that people with college degrees stand a good chance of finding quality jobs.

This is not the first study to conclude that Americans have come to widely accept the belief that a college education is ultimately a wise investment. For example, a poll conducted by the Pew Research Center last spring yielded similar results. As The Chronicle of Higher Education reported, 84 percent of respondents to the Pew survey who had degrees said that college had been a good investment, while just 7 percent said it had not.

Moreover, according to an earlier study from insurer MetLife, even middle and high schools students recognize the value of a college degree: As U.S. News & World Report noted, MetLife's survey found that 75 percent of middle and high school students plan on going to college. In addition, 84 percent of students believed that there will be "few or no" career opportunities for students who do not complete some form of higher education.

Indeed, Gallup's tracking of unemployment and underemployment in the United States has found that these perceptions about the value of a college education are true: On the whole, unemployment and underemployment rates for college-educated Americans are lower than Americans with less education.

A recent report by the Georgetown University Center for Education and the Workforce found that those holding bachelor's degrees earn about $2.27 million over their lifetimes. Meanwhile, those with some college earned only about $1.55 million in lifetime earnings. And those with only a high school diploma earned $1.30 million in lifetime earnings.

"They payoff from getting a college degree is huge and is actually increasing," said Merisotis, who was quoted by U.S. News. "For people wondering [if] a college degree [is] worth it: Not only is it worth it, but the premium is growing."

Interestingly, however, the Georgetown study found that while those with more advanced degrees still earn more during their lifetime, the difference in earnings is becoming less: Those with master's, doctoral, and professional degrees earn $2.67 million, $3.25 million, and $3.65 million, respectively.

"It's still true that, on average, it's better to get the higher degree," said the center's director, Anthony Carnevale, who was quoted by U.S. News. "It's better to keep climbing--but it's less and less true."


Compiled by Yaffa Klugerman

Sources:

"College's Value Goes Deeper Than the Degree, Graduates Say," Chronicle.com, May 15, 2011, Eric Hoover

"High Schoolers Say College Education Necessary to Get Jobs," USNews.com, March 9, 2011, Jason Koebler

"How Higher Education Affects Lifetime Salary," USNews.com, August 5, 2011, Brian Burnsed

"Most Americans See College as Essential to Getting a Good Job," Gallup.com, August 18, 2011, Cynthia English

"New Gallup Poll Finds that Americans View College Degree Completion as an Essential Tool for Landing a Good Job and Finding Financial Security," LuminaFoundation.org, August 18, 2011

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