Poll: Texans Support Higher Ed.

“Disruption” is a theme these days coming from many critics of higher education. The argument goes that our institutions and practices are so ossified that major dislocation is the only answer. Gradual evolution won’t do. The notion sort of resembles “drain the swamp” as a panacea for political entrenchment in Washington D.C. Sounds great, but what does it mean?

However, most adult Texans believe state government spends too little on higher education and regard student loan debt as a major problem, but they would still advise a high school senior to pursue a degree, citing higher pay, respect, and pride, among other benefits, as reported by Ralph K.M. Haurwitz, in the Austin American-Statesman.

Those are some of the findings of a statewide poll commissioned by the Texas arm of Western Governors University, a private, nonprofit and mostly online institution. The methodology seems consistent with good practices in polling. You can read the AAS piece for an explanation.

The results reveal growing public concern about the state government’s lack of commitment to education, with 52 percent saying the state spends too little on college education, up from 49 percent in 2016 and 45 percent in 2015. Forty percent said the state’s colleges and universities provide adequate financial aid, compared with 52 percent in 2015. And 59 percent said the state doesn’t do enough to ensure that public schools prepare students for college-level work, the article reports.

The poll contains positive news for educators, and ought to give pause to policy makers and leaders of think tanks who are fond of bashing higher education.

A few years ago, a technology billionaire encouraged (and supported financially) anyone who would not attend college and go right to work as an entrepreneur. His point seemed to be that college isn’t worth it in the modern economy. As you might expect, the takers came from wealthy and privileged backgrounds. For the rest of us, it’s hard to imagine a more destructive attitude than assuming college is a bad investment, especially with public institutions.

A discussion of tuition costs will be the subject of a subsequent post.

Other findings of the study include, as reported by AAS:

  • 73 percent said student loan debt is a major problem.
  • 66 percent of those without a college degree cited the cost and family responsibilities as obstacles.
  • 70 percent said a certificate or degree is “very important” and 25 percent called it “somewhat important.”
  • 90 percent agreed that an educated workforce is essential for the state’s economy to compete with other states.
  • 65 percent would prefer to earn a degree from a “quality, traditional, in-person degree program,” while 28 percent would prefer a “quality online degree program.”