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Is College Worth the Time and Money?

As students face rising tuition costs, increasing debt burdens, and uncertain employment prospects, central questions arises: Is college worth the time and money? Are students learning what matters most for workforce preparation? Is there consensus on the virtues of being “well-rounded,” or is it time to emphasize specific job skills? And at a time of renewed focus on civic engagement, what role should higher education play in supporting communities and democracy?

To address these questions, the Association of American Colleges and Universities (AAC&U) and the Bipartisan Policy Center partnered with Morning Consult to conduct a survey of 2,200 American adults. The survey was administered March 3-5, 2021. The findings are presented in the brief below, alongside results from AAC&U’s recent survey of employers. Together these surveys highlight the nuances of public opinion on higher education—what is most highly valued about it and by whom, as well as its relevance to workforce success.

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