WGBH News and Media Relations


October 26, 2015

Survey: Majority of Americans would recommend community college over taking out loans for four-year college

Survey from WGBH News offers new data on perceptions of community colleges in the U.S.

Findings reported in public media series “College Material” produced by the WGBH News higher education desk, On Campus

(Boston, MA – October 26, 2015) A new survey from WGBH News, conducted by Anderson Robbins Research, reveals that the majority of Americans would recommend two-year community college over taking on loan debt to pay for a four-year program. The survey was conducted for the special reporting series, “College Material,” from the WGBH News higher education desk, On Campus. The series explores attitudes towards community colleges among American adults and community college students.

With open enrollment and low-cost tuition, community colleges are designed to offer affordable access to higher education and entry into the middle class for many non-traditional students: full-time workers, parents, military veterans and immigrants. And increasingly they are serving as an affordable alternative for students wary of taking on thousands of dollars in student loan debt to attend more expensive public or private four-year colleges. Yet remediation rates are high and completion rates low, and a small percentage of students graduate on time.

“College Material” explores how Americans perceive community colleges, who attends them and why. Using survey data and interviews with community college students and education experts, the series aims to get a fuller picture of how well community colleges are meeting their students’ needs and the demands of America’s workforce.

“As community college is increasingly touted as an antidote to rising college costs and a place to prepare America’s future workers, it is imperative that we investigate the benefits that these institutions offer,” said Phil Redo, general manager for WGBH Radio. “By commissioning new data and reporting from the country’s hub for higher education, Boston, WGBH’s On Campus is uniquely positioned to reveal new perspectives about how Americans value community colleges and how they meet the needs of our changing economy.”

The series will appear on the On Campus site (wgbhnews.org/communitycolleges) and on-air each day beginning today, Monday, October 26 through Friday, October 30 on 89.7 WGBH Radio’s Morning Edition and All Things Considered.

Key WGBH News Survey Findings:

Anderson Robbins Research surveyed 1,157 Americans, including 800 current and recent community college students.

  • Community colleges are almost universally seen as essential to providing families with opportunities. Roughly half of Americans have taken classes at a community college; nine out of 10 of those students would recommend community college classes.
  • Americans perceive community colleges as comparable with public universities in terms of quality and better in terms of value. Most people overestimate the cost of community college tuition, even while thinking they provide a great value.
  • If a high school senior inherited $200,000, six in 10 Americans would advise they pursue a community college education and save the rest of the money, rather than going broke for a four-year degree.
  • Younger students attend community college for different reasons than older students; younger students plan to transfer to four-year colleges, while older students seek to obtain skills to get a better job and earn more money.
  • Affordability is a factor driving 75 percent of community college students’ enrollment.
  • Two-thirds of community college students also work. More than half work 30 or more hours a week.
  • For community college students who didn’t complete their program, 65 percent cited cost as the reason, followed by family responsibilities (53 percent).
  • While 94 percent of Americans say the United States’ higher education system is very important to our global competitiveness, only half say so about community colleges.
  • In New England, a region rich with four-year private schools, those questioned were less likely to think they lived near a community college.

About On Campus

On Campus is a public radio reporting initiative focused on higher education, produced in Boston at WGBH. On Campus aims to explore trends in higher education nationwide, capturing the distinct voices of students, faculty, administrators and thought leaders. Launched in June of 2013, On Campus is a collaboration with the Forum for the Future of Higher Education and is made possible with support from Lumina Foundation, the Davis Educational Foundation, and TIAA-CREF Financial Services.

About WGBH

WGBH Boston is America’s preeminent public broadcaster and the largest producer of PBS content for TV and the Web. Television channels include WGBH 2, WGBX 44, and the digital channels World and Create. WGBH Radio serves listeners across New England with 89.7 WGBH, Boston's Local NPR®; 99.5 WCRB; and WCAI, the Cape and Islands NPR® Station. wgbh.org


WGBH Media Relations

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