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Survey: Higher Ed Can Still Make a Difference

While the majority of Americans see their country falling behind other nations economically, they also believe the nation can improve its standing with more college degrees, according to a new survey from Kaplan. The Kaplan University Education Insights Survey found 83 percent of adults in the United States agree that the country is falling behind, with seven in 10 saying that the nation can improve its standing if more people earn college degrees.

"America has the talent to be competitive," said Peter Smith, senior vice president for Academic Strategies "If we can help close the ‘degree gap'--by making higher education more accessible to more Americans--we will stop wasting our talent, increase our global competitiveness, and get more people into sustainable, higher paying careers."

This finding comes on the heels of a study by the National Center for Higher Education Management Systems that found that the United States will need to produce 63.1 million degrees to match leading nations in the percentage of adults with college degrees by 2025. At the current pace, the country will fall short of that threshold by 16 million degrees.

The survey also found that:

  • Nine in 10 American adults feel finishing a degree, seeking a higher degree, or continuing education makes someone more attractive to potential employers.
  • Also, 90 percent report that furthering one's education can increase one's earning potential and opportunities for promotion.
  • Eighty-four percent of high school-educated, employed adults have concerns about their jobs--and specifically about losing their job or not being able to find a new job if let go--while 63 percent of college-educated adults are worried.
  • Fifty-five percent of Americans between 18 and 34 years say the economy influences their education decision. Women, who make up six out of every 10 students enrolled in college, are more likely to be influenced by the economy (63 percent) than men (46 percent) in this age category.

"During tough economic times, college applications tend to rise and this slowing economy is no exception," said Smith. "People go back to school to sharpen their skills or obtain credentials that enhance their competitiveness, and the investment pays off. U.S. census data shows that in 2007 people with bachelor's degrees earned 90 percent more than high school graduates. On average, college graduates earn $59,365 annually compared with high school graduates who earn $33,609."

The "Education and the Economy" survey was conducted online for Kaplan by Harris Interactive this fall among 2,256 U.S. adults, of whom 1,276 are employed full time and/or part time.

About the Author

Dian Schaffhauser is a former senior contributing editor for 1105 Media's education publications THE Journal, Campus Technology and Spaces4Learning.

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