Two-thirds of Americans Rate College Programs as Excellent or Good

    NEW YORK , N.Y. – August 19, 2011 – This is the time of year that students begin returning to college campuses around the country. There are many different types of colleges and universities to choose from, but are there different perceptions of the education one receives at these schools? First, looking at academic programs versus career and occupational programs, there isn’t much of a difference. Two-thirds of Americans say academic programs (68%) and career and occupational programs (67%) at 2 or 4 year colleges do an excellent or pretty good job of educating their students.

    These are some of the results of The Harris Poll of 2,183 adults surveyed online between July 11 and 18, 2011.

    Looking at different types of colleges and universities, over half of americans (52%) have a positive opinion of public colleges or universities, one-third (36%) have neither a positive nor negative opinion oand 12% have a negative opinion of them. Just under half of U.S. adults (48%) have a positive opinion of private, not-for-profit colleges or universities while more than two in five (44%) have neither a positive nor negative opinion and just 8% have a negative opinion of them. Opinions of private, for-profit colleges or universities are the most divided as two in five americans (44%) have neither a positive nor negative opinion of them, just over one-third (35%) have a positive opinion and one in five (21%) have a negative opinion. 

    Perceptions of colleges and universities

    There has been a lot of media attention recently regarding for-profit universities and opinions of them are a little mixed. Over half of Americans (57%) agree that for-profit colleges/universities do not care how many of their students graduate, only how many enroll and pay tuition. But, at the same time, a similar number (55%) agree that for-profit colleges/universities serve an important need by providing higher education to non-traditional students while just one in five disagree (22%); one-quarter (23%) say they are not at all sure. Also, two in five U.S. adults (40%) believe for-profit colleges and universities are more innovative than public or not-for-profit ones, but one-third (35%) do not agree and one-quarter (25%) are not at all sure.

    When it comes to whether public and not-for-profit colleges/universities care about tuition or students, Americans are divided. Two in five (42%) agree that these schools do not care how many of their students graduate, only how many enroll and pay tuition while almost the same number (41%) disagree.

    While Americans normally are not in favor, as a rule, of more government regulation, a majority (51%) agree that the government should regulate college programs to help make sure that graduates can get jobs and repay college loans.

    So What?

    As a majority of Americans say, for-profit universities serve an important need, but, at the same time, are something new and different to the educational system. This can be seen in the large number of U.S. adults who say they are not sure about these schools which means there is still a learning curve these colleges and universities have to climb. And, because of this sense of the unknown, what Americans may learn about the schools is what they see in the media regarding the federal government’s scrutiny of them. The schools need to be proactive in pushing the message of the important need they fulfill to help counter this.

     

    TABLE 1A

    HOW COLLEGE PROGRAMS DO IN EDUCATING STUDENTS

    We would now like to ask your opinion about higher education in the United States. How do you think each of these types of college programs (2 year or 4 year) do in educating their students?

    Base: All adults

    Excellent/Pretty good (NET)

    Excellent

    Pretty good

    Only fair/Poor (NET)

    Only fair

    Poor

    Not at all sure

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    Academic programs at 2 or 4 year colleges

    68

    17

    51

    21

    17

    4

    11

    Career and occupational programs at 2 or 4 year colleges

    67

    18

    49

    21

    17

    4

    12

    Note: Percentages may not add to 100% due to rounding.

     

    TABLE 1B

    HOW COLLEGE PROGRAMS DO IN EDUCATING STUDENTS

    We would now like to ask your opinion about higher education in the United States. How do you think each of these types of college programs (2 year or 4 year) do in educating their students?

    Summary of those saying excellent or pretty good

    Base: All adults

    Total

    Education

    Gender

    H.S. or less

    Some college

    College grad

    Post grad

    Male

    Female

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    Academic programs at 2 or 4 year colleges

    68

    60

    68

    81

    80

    65

    71

    Career and occupational programs at 2 or 4 year colleges

    67

    61

    70

    72

    73

    64

    70

    Note: Percentages may not add to 100% due to rounding.

     

    TABLE 2A

    VIEWS OF HIGHER EDUCATION INSTITUTIONS

    Do you have a positive or a negative opinion of each of the following types of higher education institutions in the United States?

    Base: All adults

    Positive (NET)

    Very positive

    Somewhat positive

    Neither positive nor negative

    Negative (NET)

    Somewhat negative

    Very negative

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    Public colleges or universities

    52

    16

    36

    36

    12

    8

    4

    Private, not-for-profit colleges or universities

    48

    14

    34

    44

    8

    6

    2

    Private, for-profit colleges or universities

    35

    8

    27

    44

    21

    15

    6

    Note: Percentages may not add to 100% due to rounding.

     

    TABLE 2B

    VIEWS OF HIGHER EDUCATION INSTITUTIONS

    Do you have a positive or a negative opinion of each of the following types of higher education institutions in the United States?

    Summary of those saying very positive or somewhat positive

    Base: All adults

    Total

    Education

    H.S. or less

    Some college

    College grad

    Post grad

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    Public colleges or universities

    52

    40

    57

    60

    78

    Private, not-for-profit colleges or universities

    48

    35

    48

    62

    76

    Private, for-profit colleges or universities

    35

    28

    39

    37

    54

    Note: Percentages may not add to 100% due to rounding.

     

    TABLE 3A

    AGREEMENT ON STATEMENTS ABOUT FOR-PROFIT COLLEGES AND OTHER EDUCATION ISSUES

    How much do you agree or disagree with the following statements?

    Base: All adults

    Agree (NET)

    Strongly agree

    Somewhat agree

    Disagree (NET)

    Somewhat disagree

    Strongly disagree

    Not at all sure

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    For-profit colleges/universities serve an important need by providing higher education to nontraditional students.

    55

    15

    40

    22

    16

    6

    23

    For-profit colleges/universities are more innovative than public or not-for-profit college/universities.

    40

    10

    30

    35

    24

    11

    25

    For-profit colleges/universities do not care how many of their students graduate, only how many enroll and pay tuition.

    57

    23

    34

    25

    16

    8

    19

    Public and not-for-profit colleges/universities do not care how many of their students graduate, only how many enroll and pay tuition.

    42

    15

    27

    41

    27

    14

    17

    The government should regulate college programs to help make sure that graduates can get jobs and repay college loans.

    51

    25

    26

    36

    15

    20

    13

    Note: Percentages may not add to 100% due to rounding.

     

    TABLE 3B

    AGREEMENT ON STATEMENTS ABOUT FOR-PROFIT COLLEGES AND OTHER EDUCATION ISSUES

    How much do you agree or disagree with the following statements?

    Summary of those saying strongly agree or somewhat agree

    Base: All adults

    Total

    Education

    H.S. or less

    Some college

    College grad

    Post grad

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    For-profit colleges/universities serve an important need by providing higher education to nontraditional students.

    55

    54

    54

    57

    63

    For-profit colleges/universities are more innovative than public or not-for-profit college/universities.

    40

    42

    42

    34

    37

    For-profit colleges/universities do not care how many of their students graduate, only how many enroll and pay tuition.

    57

    57

    56

    59

    56

    Public and not-for-profit colleges/universities do not care how many of their students graduate, only how many enroll and pay tuition.

    42

    44

    43

    36

    38

    The government should regulate college programs to help make sure that graduates can get jobs and repay college loans.

    51

    54

    50

    45

    50

    Note: Percentages may not add to 100% due to rounding.

     

    Methodology

    This Harris Poll was conducted online within the United States between July 11 to 18, 2011 among 2,183 adults (aged 18 and over). Figures for age, sex, race/ethnicity, education, region and household income were weighted where necessary to bring them into line with their actual proportions in the population. Propensity score weighting was also used to adjust for respondents’ propensity to be online.

    All sample surveys and polls, whether or not they use probability sampling, are subject to multiple sources of error which are most often not possible to quantify or estimate, including sampling error, coverage error, error associated with nonresponse, error associated with question wording and response options, and post-survey weighting and adjustments. Therefore, Harris Interactive avoids the words margin of error as they are misleading. All that can be calculated are different possible sampling errors with different probabilities for pure, unweighted, random samples with 100% response rates. These are only theoretical because no published polls come close to this ideal.

    Respondents for this survey were selected from among those who have agreed to participate in Harris Interactive surveys. The data have been weighted to reflect the composition of the adult population. Because the sample is based on those who agreed to participate in the Harris Interactive panel, no estimates of theoretical sampling error can be calculated.

    These statements conform to the principles of disclosure of the National Council on Public Polls.

    The results of this Harris Poll may not be used in advertising, marketing or promotion without the prior written permission of Harris Interactive.

    J40488

    J830, 835, 840, 845

    The Harris Poll® #92, August 19, 2011

    By Regina A. Corso, SVP, Harris Poll, Public Relations and Youth Research