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SHORT TAKES


May 2, 2013

Are Americans Rethinking Traditional Higher-Ed?

Gallup reports today that most Americans understand the higher-ed crisis at least partially. Indeed, a new survey shows that 59% "strongly agree" that colleges and universities should "reduce tuition and fees." While they'd be crazy not to think this, it's reassuring that a large percentage of the population recognizes that higher-ed institutions are mostly to blame for skyrocketing costs. Unfortunately, though, a plurality of respondents "strongly agree" that "the federal government should provide more assistance." As is often the case, the American people don't seem to understand that federal programs designed to "solve" a given problem -- in this case, the rising cost of college -- often end up exacerbating it.

However, Gallup's report, which it co-authored with the Lumina Foundation, also gives reason for hope. When asked whether they agreed that "Online colleges and universities offer high-quality education," 11% of respondents strongly agreed, 22% agreed, and 39% were neutral. This statistic might signal a growing acceptance of alternatives to the traditional higher-ed model. Though Americans still prefer brick-and-mortar institutions - indeed, larger percentages of respondents agreed that "traditional colleges and universities offer high-quality education" -- they seem to recognize that they do not meet everyone's needs. If this indeed the case, this report might provide an opening for policymakers who wish to wean America off its attachment to the fanciful notion of "college for all." 

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