- A WSJ survey found that 56% of Americans now say a four-year college degree isn’t worth the cost.
- The poll highlighted a growing skepticism about the value of college and associated student debt.
- The findings underscored a decade-long college enrollment decline, which the pandemic exacerbated.
A majority of Americans now say a college degree isn’t worth it.
A survey from the WSJ and the research organization NORC at the University of Chicago found that 56% of Americans say earning a four-year degree isn’t worth the cost. They tie their skepticism to mounting student debt — and the idea that tangible job skills aren’t always gained during time in college, according to the survey.
The survey’s findings highlighted a swelling skepticism about the value of higher education and underscored a decade-long decline in college enrollment.
College enrollment in the US dipped from 21 million students in 2010, to 18 million in 2021, Insider previously reported. This enrollment trend was further exacerbated when the pandemic hit — a period when colleges were faced with particularly low enrollment numbers.
Those who are closest to this college-age demographic — people between the ages of 18-34 — were particularly prone to questioning of the value behind a college degree, the survey found.
Even those with college degrees are weighing whether or not it was really worth it. The WSJ survey found that 42% of people with college degrees said it didn’t end up being worth it. This percentage swelled more than 10 percentage points, compared to findings from two polls from the last decade, the WSJ reported.
Dips in confidence in college degrees were especially stark among women and older Americans, the WSJ survey found. The percentage of women who thought college was worth it dipped from 54% in 2017 to 44%. A similar decline was reflected in older Americans: 44% of older Americans thought college was worth it, compared to 56% in 2017.
Skyrocketing tuition costs, a boom in demand for workers, and political divisions feeding into college campuses, are all reasons people may be forgoing college, Insider previously reported. Recently, some Republican and Democratic governors have taken notice. Governors of Maryland, Colorado, Utah, and Pennsylvania have all spearheaded initiatives to loosen up college-degree requirements, in part to assist with labor shortages — particularly for hard-to-fill state government openings.
Before that, some companies were already opting-out of college degree requirements for some positions, including at IBM, Google, and Bank of America, Insider reported. Between 2017 and 2019, 46% of middle-skill and 31% of high-skill jobs nixed college degree requirements, according to a 2022 report from Burning Glass Institute.
The WSJ and NORC at the University of Chicago survey polled 1,019 people from March 1 through March 13.
Did you decide to opt-out of college for a different career path or an alternative educational path? Was college too expensive? Contact this reporter at email@example.com to share your experience.