The Indispensable Degree

Two-thirds of respondents to a 2000 poll by Public Agenda and the National Center for Public Policy and Higher Education agreed that “There are many ways to succeed in today’s world without a college degree.” The number holding that opinion has fallen steadily in subsequent polls as people have swung to the view that college is “necessary” for success today — a position now held by 55 percent of respondents, up from 31 percent in 2000.

This doesn’t necessarily mean they hold higher education in high esteem. Respondents were less likely to agree that “Colleges today mainly care about education and making sure students have a good educational experience” (35 percent said so) than that “Colleges today are like businesses and mainly care about the bottom line” (55 percent).