WGBH News National Poll Uncovers America’s Sentiments about Higher Education Including Perceptions about Impact on Society, Race and College Admissions and the Value of a College Degree

September 17, 2018

BOSTON--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Sep 17, 2018--In a national poll on perceptions of higher education, WGBH News has found 86 percent of Americans support a racially and ethnically diverse student body on college campuses. However, 72 percent do not support the use of race as a factor in college admissions. These were among many findings in a national poll which looked at the impact of colleges and universities on society, perceptions of public and private universities, the role of higher education in society and the value of a college education. The poll also looked at issues of free speech, efforts to combat sexual assault and mental health issues, state support for public universities, and taxation of college endowments.

The WGBH News/Abt Associates Poll surveyed 1002 adults 18-65, across ethnic, geographic and economic groups. The poll was conducted August 21– 25, 2018. The margin of error for most results is +/- 3.5 percent.

“As the nation’s leading public media organization, WGBH and our newsroom have a unique perch in Boston, a major hub of the higher education industry. It is critically important to our audience to take the country’s pulse on some fundamental questions about higher education, including whether or not Americans still value a college degree,” says WGBH News’ Ken Cooper, a Pulitzer-prize winning editor who oversaw the project.

Value of a College Education When asked about the value of attending college, considering the costs to attend and the benefits of graduation, 68 percent of respondents stated college is worth attending. However, when asked if a college degree is needed, 55 percent did not believe it was necessary to get ahead in life.

Mental Health, Sexual Assault and Free Speech on College Campuses Overall, Americans believe colleges and universities are doing too little to combat sexual assault and mental health issues on campus. 50 percent of those surveyed believe colleges and universities are not doing a good job looking after mental health needs of students while 54 percent do not believe these institutions are protecting students from sexual assault.

When it comes to free speech, overwhelmingly, Americans perceive college campuses to be partisan environments; 77 percent of respondents identify colleges as leaning liberal and 79 percent of respondents see this as a problem.

Support for Public Universities Among respondents, support for public colleges and universities remains strong, until asked about higher taxes to ensure these universities remain affordable. 76 percent of those polled have a favorable opinion of public colleges and universities and 78 percent would be concerned about reduced funding for these schools. However, 49 percent of respondents were opposed to paying higher taxes that would enable additional residents to attend these schools.

Taxation on Endowments Earlier this year, the federal government initiated a 1.4 percent tax on the financial gains of private university endowments worth over $500,000 per student. When surveyed on this topic, 50 percent of respondents say that colleges and universities should not pay taxes on their endowments.

A collection of this reporting as well as the results of the poll can be found at www.wgbh.org/news/collegepoll.

About WGBH and WGBH News WGBH Boston is America’s preeminent public broadcaster and the largest producer of PBS content for TV and the Web, including  Frontline, Nova, American Experience, Masterpiece, Antiques Roadshow, Arthur,  and more than a dozen other prime-time, lifestyle, and children’s series. WGBH News is among the fastest growing local news providers in greater Boston and draws on the talent of a multi-platform newsroom that includes 89.7 WGBH, Boston’s Local NPR, television and digital reporting. WGBH also is a major supplier of programming for public radio and a partner with Public Radio International (PRI) and PRX. As a leader in educational multimedia for the classroom, WGBH supplies content to PBS LearningMedia, a national broadband service for teachers and students. WGBH also is a pioneer in technologies and services that make media accessible to those with hearing or visual impairments. WGBH has been recognized with hundreds of honors: Emmys, Peabodys, duPont-Columbia Awards and Oscars. Find more information at  www.wgbh.org.

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PUB: 09/17/2018 10:11 AM/DISC: 09/17/2018 10:11 AM


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