Californians See College as Essential to Succeed in Workplace and Affordability as Main Issue in PPIC Survey6 min read

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Clear Message That Changes Needed and Disapproval of Both Governor and Legislature in Handling This Issue

The Public Policy Institute of California has done an extensive survey broken out by both all Californians and likely voters who send a strong message that they are concerned about the affordability of public college and university education which they see as a necessity, without which one cannot succeed in the workplace. They also rate negatively the Governor’s performance in this area along with that of the state legislature. And they want changes made.

“Californians and Higher Education”, released late last night, is a 44 page report based on a survey of 2,503 California adults taken between October 10 and 23.

Californians Say College Education is the Only Way to Succeed in the Economy

What is striking about this report is the much higher level of Californians, compared with the nation as a whole, who see college as key to success in work. When asked the question: “Do you think that a college education is necessary for a person to be successful in today’s work world, or do you think that there are many ways to succeed in today’s work world without a college education?” 64% responded that it was necessary, 34% said there were many other ways to succeed, and only 2% said they didn’t know. Nationally, according to PPIC, the public is split on this proposition.

These numbers are across the board, with 72% of Asians, 68% of Blacks, 79% of Latinos, and 55% of Whites agreeing the college education is what is needed.

The figures are even higher when it comes to parents with children age 18 or younger, who agree 71% to 28%.

76% see the California higher education system as important to the state’s quality of life and economic vitality over the next 20 years. Another 20% see it as somewhat important and only 3% see it as of little or no importance.

Looking out 20 years, 68% say California will need more college educated workers than it does now.

Action Needed–High Cost and Accessibility to College is Seen as the Most Important Issue

When asked the question: “What do you think is the most important issue facing California’s public colleges and universities today?” most Californians who identified an issue answered student costs, affordability, tuition, fees (35%) or not enough government funding (14%). The only other issues that garnered more than 5% as a response were immigrants at 6% and administrative costs, salaries, waste at 5%.

This was the leading issue across all demographic groups including likely voters surveyed. Regardless of party, race, ethnicity, gender, age, income, and level of education achieved affordability was identified.

The surprising number here is on “immigrants” ranking so low amongst Californians and all the demographic subsets here. Given some of the superheated rhetoric against the California DREAM Act to make college education available to the children of undocumented workers who have completed high school in California and met admission standards, this was identified as the most important issue by only 6% of California adults. Republicans were a bit more inclined, citing it 9% as well as those with a high school or less of education at 10%, but the biggest group to name this was the Latino group (11%) and it was identified by only 2% of Blacks, 3% of Asians, and 5% of Whites.

Another surprise in light of all the press stories about excessive compensation of University of California and California State University administrators and closed door sessions where these were approved, the Administrative costs, salaries, waste issue was only rated as the most important by 5% of the sample.

When asked how important the overall affordability of education for students in California’s public colleges and universities was, 53% see it as a “big problem” and another 31% as “somewhat of a problem.” That’s 84% who see it as a problem versus 14% who see it as “not much of a problem.” Even 81% of those making over $80,000 per year see it as a problem.

60% see the overall accessibility of education for students in California’s public colleges and universities as a problem.

56% of Californians see getting a college education as being more difficult to get than it was 10 years ago, while 13% see it as easier to get and 24% see it as about as difficult.

61% of Californians see the price of a college education as going up at a faster rate than “other things.”

Only 32% of Californians think that those who are qualified to go to college are able to go while 65% say many do not have the opportunity.

By a 2 to 1 margin, they agree that the price of a college education keeps students who arequalified and motivated to go to college from doing so.

85% of those with a child under the age of 18 report they are concerned about their ability to pay for a college education for their youngest child. Most feel they are behind in their saving to do so and most Californians, with our without young children feel that families are not saving enough.

39% of Californians feel higher education in California is in need of major changes, while another 45% say minor changes. That means 84% want change and only 12% say the situation is fine as it is.

Governor Schwarzenegger and the Legislature Get Marked Down in Approval Ratings on Higher Education: What the Voters Want

While the PPIC has Governor Schwarzenegger at a 51% approval rating from Californians and 59% amongst likely voters, the numbers are markedly different when it comes to how they see his performance on higher education. Only 34% approve of his performance on higher education and 39% disapprove of it.

Overall, the legislature clocks in at a paltry 33% approval and 54% disapproval rating from Californians and 32% approval and 54% disapproval by likely voters. But they receive even lower levels of approval of how they are handling higher education–29% of Californians approve and 47% disapprove and with likely voters they are at 26% to 49% on this issue.

As to what they want the Governor and the legislature to do, 50% endorse the idea of spending money more wisely and increasing the state funding of higher education. 39% support spending more wisely alone and 9% support increasing state spending alone. But when the two are put together, there is broad public support for doing them both.

57% of Californans and 54% of likely voters favor spending more state government money to keep down tuition and fee costs, even if it means less money for other state programs. While this is supported over 2 to 1 by Democrats and Independents, this approach has the support of even 44% of Republicans while 50% oppose the idea.

83% favor increasing government funding for scholarships or grants for college students.

57% say the current level of state funding for California’s higher education system is not enough while 28% say it is “just enough” and 7% say it is more than enough. Even Republicans are split 39% to 39% on whether not enough or just enough is spend on higher education.

64% would support a construction bond for higher education.

And it seems the voters feel that state government can get things done here. 58% say they have a great deal or some confidence that state government can plan for the future of the higher education system while 41% have very little or no such confidence.

Get cracking on this!

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