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Opinions on higher education revealed in new survey

Evan Mealins

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A Third Way survey found that Alabamians want greater accountability with their higher education institutions.

Ninety-four percent of survey respondents agreed that the skills required in today’s job market are different than in the past, a belief that may be tied to the large majority of respondents that think college is still a beneficial investment. 

Alabamians decidedly believe that vocational training certificates have the best bang for your buck, as 90 percent said they are “worth the investment and usually pay off.” Sixty-nine percent said the same for bachelor’s degrees and 74 percent felt that associate’s degrees were worth it. These attitudes may not be constant in different communities.

Seventy-seven percent of voters said that institutions have a responsibility to ensure that their students graduate. According to a memo from Third Way, 51 percent of first-time, full-time students attending a four-year institution in Alabama graduate within six years, which eclipses the average completion rate of 40 percent. 

Two-thirds of those surveyed said that they believe the federal government should get involved to protect students from taking out loans to attend predatory institutions that may leave them in a worse position than they were in before.

Generally, voters want the federal government to hold higher education institutions more accountable. In fact, 90 percent believe institutions should face sanctions if they’re receiving federal money and most of their students can’t pay back their loans. Eighty-two percent believe that college accreditors should be required to consider student outcomes as part of their review of institutions. 

Forty-eight percent supported free tuition at all public colleges and universities and 61 percent were in favor of free tuition at community colleges.

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The online survey was conducted by Global Strategy Group for Third Way, and polled 1,143 likely 2020 voters in six states from April 30th through May 9th, 2019.

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Evan Mealins is a reporting intern at the Alabama Political Reporter and student at Auburn University working toward a B.A. in media studies. You can follow him on Twitter @EvanMealins or email him at [email protected]

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