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College degree still losing luster

Updated results from a multi-year survey that the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation commissioned in 2022 show that a large percentage of high school students still question the value of a college degree. The study examined the opinions of high school graduates between the ages of 18 and 30 who have either never enrolled in a college course, or who dropped out of college without finishing a degree program. The update includes information from current high school juniors and seniors. The purpose of the study was to determine why college enrollment is declining.

The study authors conducted both in-person focus groups and online surveys of more than 1,700 high school juniors and seniors, as well as more than 3,100 high school graduates who met the study’s age and educational attainment criteria.

Results from the study showed that while study participants in each cohort could see and agree on significant reasons to get a college degree, the updated (2023) data show a decline in the percentage of participants who agreed with the importance of getting a college degree.

The study also noted differences in the rationale for seeking a college degree among participants currently enrolled in high school and participants who have already graduated. For example, 81% of current high school students identified the opportunity to make more money as an important reason to enroll in college. Among participants who had already graduated, only 71% agreed that making more money was a valid reason to seek a college degree.

Nearly as many current high school students (80%) believe that a college degree would offer more job security. Among high school graduates, only 65% agreed with this sentiment.

HS students, grads don’t see value in college degree

High school students (83%) and high school graduates (77%) both agreed that on-the-job training offered the best possible value in terms of return on effort. Only 69% of high school students and 63% of high school graduates agreed that a community college degree offers excellent or good value.

Study participants viewed short-course credentials and bootcamps skeptically. 49% of high school students and 50% of high school graduates thought that short-course programs offered excellent or good value. Only 36% of high school students and 41% of high school graduates thought that bootcamps offered significant value.

Therefore, it’s not hard to understand why a community college that has gone all-in on certificates isn’t doing well in terms of enrollment. Its primary target doesn’t see significant value in the institution’s primary product.
Tomorrow, I will look at where the study participants do find value in education and workforce training.

Photo Credit: winnifredxoxo , via Flickr