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Is college worthwhile? Only 36% of Americans trust higher education, poll reveals.

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A new study found that majority Americans believe the US higher education system is going in the “wrong direction” regarding college value and affordability.

Gallup and the Lumina Foundation reported Monday that only 36% of respondents have “great deal” or “quite a lot” of confidence in higher education. That confidence level has steadily fallen from 57% in 2015.

As colleges deal with the student loan crisis, expensive tuition, political conflicts over racism, and other themes, enrollment has declined.

College’s value is declining across all groups, including gender, age, and politics. Republicans’ high confidence in higher education has decreased 36 percentage points over the last decade, more than Democrats or independents.

“It’s so expensive, and I don’t think colleges are teaching people what they need to get a job,” says 59-year-old Connecticut Republican Randy Hill, a car service driver. His nephew intends to pursue a welding apprenticeship after high school. “After college, you’re in debt, can’t work, and can’t pay it off. Why bother?

In June 2024, 36% of adults were confident in higher education, the same as in 2023. Researchers worry about the bottom line, where fewer Americans say they have “some” confidence and more say “very little” and “none.” This year, 32% of people lack confidence, almost as many as those with great confidence.

Fewer college graduates could increase health care and IT job shortages, say experts. Georgetown University’s Center on Education and the Workforce reports that non-college graduates earn 75% less than bachelor’s degree holders. Without degrees, job losses are more likely during a recession.

“It is sad to see that confidence hasn’t grown at all,” says Courtney Brown, vice president of Lumina, an education charity that promotes postsecondary education. “What’s shocking to me is that low-confidence people are actually increasing.”

New, specific questions were added to this year’s survey to understand confidence decline.

Nearly one-third say college is “too expensive,” and 24% say students are not being properly educated or instructed to succeed.

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