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Two-thirds of Americans Rate College Programs as Excellent or Good

August 19, 2011

NEW YORK, Aug. 19, 2011 /PRNewswire/ – This is the time of year that students begin returning to college campuses around the country. There are many different types of colleges and universities to choose from, but are there different perceptions of the education one receives at these schools? First, looking at academic programs versus career and occupational programs, there isn’t much of a difference. Two-thirds of Americans say academic programs (68%) and career and occupational programs (67%) at 2 or 4 year colleges do an excellent or pretty good job of educating their students.

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These are some of the results of The Harris Poll of 2,183 adults surveyed online between July 11 and 18, 2011 by Harris Interactive.

Looking at the different types of colleges and universities, over half of Americans (52%) have a positive opinion of public colleges or universities, one-third (36%) have neither a positive nor negative opinion and 12% have a negative opinion of them. Just under half of U.S. adults (48%) have a positive opinion of private, not-for-profit colleges or universities while more than two in five (44%) have neither a positive nor negative opinion and just 8% have a negative opinion of them. Opinions of private, for-profit colleges or universities are the most divided as two in five Americans (44%) have neither a positive nor negative opinion of them, just over one-third (35%) have a positive opinion and one in five (21%) have a negative opinion.

Perceptions of colleges and universities

There has been a lot of media attention recently regarding for-profit universities and opinions of them are a little mixed. Over half of Americans (57%) agree that for-profit colleges/universities do not care how many of their students graduate, only how many enroll and pay tuition. But, at the same time, a similar number (55%) agree that for-profit colleges/universities serve an important need by providing higher education to non-traditional students while just one in five disagree (22%); one-quarter (23%) say they are not at all sure. Also, two in five U.S. adults (40%) believe for-profit colleges and universities are more innovative than public or not-for-profit ones, but one-third (35%) do not agree and one-quarter (25%) are not at all sure.

When it comes to whether public and not-for-profit colleges/universities care about tuition or students, Americans are divided. Two in five (42%) agree that these schools do not care how many of their students graduate, only how many enroll and pay tuition while almost the same number (41%) disagree.

While Americans normally are not in favor, as a rule, of more government regulation, a majority (51%) agree that the government should regulate college programs to help make sure that graduates can get jobs and repay college loans.

So What?

As a majority of Americans say, for-profit universities serve an important need, but, at the same time, are something new and different to the educational system. This can be seen in the large number of U.S. adults who say they are not sure about these schools which means there is still a learning curve these colleges and universities have to climb. And, because of this sense of the unknown, what Americans may learn about the schools is what they see in the media regarding the federal government’s scrutiny of them. The schools need to be proactive in pushing the message of the important need they fulfill to help counter this.

                                         TABLE 1A
                      HOW COLLEGE PROGRAMS DO IN EDUCATING STUDENTS
             "We would now like to ask your opinion about higher education in
           the United States.  How do you think each of these types of college
                                         programs
                   (2 year or 4 year) do in educating their students?"
    Base: All adults
                                Excellent/        Only
                                  Pretty             fair/          Not at
                                    good      Pretty  Poor Only       all
                                (NET) Excellent good (NET) fair Poor  sure
                                     %      %    %     %    %     %    %
    Academic programs at 2 or 4
     year colleges                      68    17   51    21   17    4    11
    Career and occupational
     programs at 2 or 4 year
     colleges                           67    18   49    21   17    4    12
    Note: Percentages may not add to 100% due to rounding.

                                           TABLE 1B
                        HOW COLLEGE PROGRAMS DO IN EDUCATING STUDENTS
             "We would now like to ask your opinion about higher education in the
               United States.  How do you think each of these types of college
                 programs (2 year or 4 year) do in educating their students?"
                     Summary of those saying "excellent" or "pretty good"
    Base: All adults
                                Total     Education               Gender
                                H.S. or Some College Post
                                    less college grad grad Male     Female
                                  %    %    %     %    %     %         %
    Academic programs at 2 or 4
     year colleges                  68   60   68    81   80    65        71
    Career and occupational
     programs at 2 or 4 year
     colleges                       67   61   70    72   73    64        70

    Note: Percentages may not add to 100% due to rounding.

                                            TABLE 2A
                             VIEWS OF HIGHER EDUCATION INSTITUTIONS
                  "Do you have a positive or a negative opinion of each of the
                 following types of higher education institutions in the United
                                            States?"
    Base: All adults
                                       Neither
                                      positive
                  Positive Very  Somewhat   nor Negative Somewhat   Very
                  (NET) positive positive negative (NET) negative negative
                     %      %       %         %      %      %        %
    Public
     colleges or
     universities       52     16      36        36     12      8        4
    Private, not-
     for-profit
     colleges or
     universities       48     14      34        44      8      6        2
    Private, for-
     profit
     colleges or
     universities       35      8      27        44     21     15        6
    Note: Percentages may not add to 100% due to rounding.

                                   TABLE 2B
                    VIEWS OF HIGHER EDUCATION INSTITUTIONS
         "Do you have a positive or a negative opinion of each of the
        following types of higher education institutions in the United
                                   States?"
        Summary of those saying "very positive" or "somewhat positive"
    Base: All adults
                              Total                Education
                                     H.S. or   Some      College  Post
                                      less   college       grad   grad
                                 %     %        %           %      %
    Public colleges or
     universities                 52      40       57          60    78
    Private, not-for-profit
     colleges or universities     48      35       48          62    76
    Private, for-profit
     colleges or universities     35      28       39          37    54

    Note: Percentages may not add to 100% due to rounding.

                                         TABLE 3A
                AGREEMENT ON STATEMENTS ABOUT FOR-PROFIT COLLEGES AND OTHER
                                     EDUCATION ISSUES
            "How much do you agree or disagree with the following statements?"
    Base: All adults
                                                                       Not at
                    Agree Strongly Somewhat Disagree Somewhat Strongly  all
                    (NET)  agree     agree   (NET)   disagree disagree sure
                      %      %        %        %        %        %       %
    For-profit
     colleges/
     universities
     serve an
     important
     need by
     providing
     higher
     education
     to
     nontraditional
     students.         55       15       40       22       16        6     23
    For-profit
     colleges/
     universities
     are more
     innovative
     than
     public or
     not-for-
     profit
     college/
     universities.     40       10       30       35       24       11     25
    For-profit
     colleges/
     universities
     do not
     care how
     many of
     their
     students
     graduate,
     only how
     many
     enroll and
     pay
     tuition.          57       23       34       25       16        8     19
    Public and
     not-for-
     profit
     colleges/
     universities
     do not
     care how
     many of
     their
     students
     graduate,
     only how
     many
     enroll and
     pay
     tuition.          42       15       27       41       27       14     17
    The
     government
     should
     regulate
     college
     programs
     to help
     make sure
     that
     graduates
     can get
     jobs and
     repay
     college
     loans.            51       25       26       36       15       20     13
    Note: Percentages may not add to 100% due to rounding.

                                        TABLE 3B
              AGREEMENT ON STATEMENTS ABOUT FOR-PROFIT COLLEGES AND OTHER
                                    EDUCATION ISSUES
           "How much do you agree or disagree with the following statements?"
              Summary of those saying "strongly agree" or "somewhat agree"
    Base: All adults
                                            Total     Education
                                            H.S.
                                                   or Some  College Post
                                                less college grad   grad
                                               %   %   %      %       %
    For-profit colleges/universities
     serve an important need by providing
     higher education to nontraditional
     students.                                  55  54    54     57    63
    For-profit colleges/universities are
     more innovative than public or not-
     for-profit college/universities.           40  42    42     34    37
    For-profit colleges/universities do
     not care how many of their students
     graduate, only how many enroll and pay
     tuition.                                   57  57    56     59    56
    Public and not-for-profit colleges/
     universities do not care how many of
     their students graduate, only how many
     enroll and pay tuition.                    42  44    43     36    38
    The government should regulate college
     programs to help make sure that
     graduates can get jobs and repay
     college loans.                             51  54    50     45    50

    Note: Percentages may not add to 100% due to rounding.

Methodology

This Harris Poll was conducted online within the United States between July 11 to 18, 2011 among 2,183 adults (aged 18 and over). Figures for age, sex, race/ethnicity, education, region and household income were weighted where necessary to bring them into line with their actual proportions in the population. Propensity score weighting was also used to adjust for respondents’ propensity to be online.

All sample surveys and polls, whether or not they use probability sampling, are subject to multiple sources of error which are most often not possible to quantify or estimate, including sampling error, coverage error, error associated with nonresponse, error associated with question wording and response options, and post-survey weighting and adjustments. Therefore, Harris Interactive avoids the words “margin of error” as they are misleading. All that can be calculated are different possible sampling errors with different probabilities for pure, unweighted, random samples with 100% response rates. These are only theoretical because no published polls come close to this ideal.

Respondents for this survey were selected from among those who have agreed to participate in Harris Interactive surveys. The data have been weighted to reflect the composition of the adult population. Because the sample is based on those who agreed to participate in the Harris Interactive panel, no estimates of theoretical sampling error can be calculated.

These statements conform to the principles of disclosure of the National Council on Public Polls.

The results of this Harris Poll may not be used in advertising, marketing or promotion without the prior written permission of Harris Interactive.

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The Harris Poll(®) #92, August 19, 2011

By Regina A. Corso, SVP, Harris Poll, Public Relations and Youth Research, Harris Interactive

About Harris Interactive

Harris Interactive is one of the world’s leading custom market research firms, leveraging research, technology, and business acumen to transform relevant insight into actionable foresight. Known widely for the Harris Poll and for pioneering innovative research methodologies, Harris offers expertise in a wide range of industries including healthcare, technology, public affairs, energy, telecommunications, financial services, insurance, media, retail, restaurant, and consumer package goods. Serving clients in over 215 countries and territories through our North American, European, and Asian offices and a network of independent market research firms, Harris specializes in delivering research solutions that help us – and our clients – stay ahead of what’s next. For more information, please visit www.harrisinteractive.com.

Press Contact:

Corporate Communications
Harris Interactive
212-539-9600
press@harrisinteractive.net

SOURCE Harris Interactive


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