While Americans continue to believe in the overall value of higher education, the share who say that colleges and universities are having a positive effect “on the way things are going in this country today” has declined by 14 percentage points since 2020, according to a new survey from New America.“Varying Degrees 2022,” the think tank’s sixth annual survey on higher education, reflects the unease and doubt wrought by nearly three years of the global COVID-19 pandemic, not to mention geopolitical instability and a volatile economy. Only 55 percent of respondents agreed that institutions of higher education were having a positive impact on the country (42 percent said it was negative), compared to 58 percent last year and 69 percent in early 2020, just before the start of the pandemic.
“We were actually very nervous to see what the numbers would be like,” said Sophie Nguyen, a senior policy analyst in New America’s education policy program and co-author of the report. “Especially since the pandemic, there’s just been a lot of uncertainty that might affect Americans’ opinions of all social issues—not just higher education.”
But in many ways, she said, the trends have held fairly steady, at least on questions posed year after year regarding the value of higher education, who should fund it and who should be held accountable when it falls short.
“The results of this year’s survey show that even though the future remains uncertain and positive feelings about higher education have wa …