Poll Shows More Californians Doubt the Value of a 4-Year Degree

A majority still think post-secondary institutions aren’t totally worthless, but 60 percent think CA’s public universities are unaffordable

A majority of Californians think the University of California and California State University are unaffordable, and are strong advocates for community colleges and vocational training as alternative options to a successful career, according to a poll released Monday, the Los Angeles Times reports.

The poll, conducted by Strategies 360, found that 77 percent of state residents still consider a four-year degree to be valuable, but only 53 percent felt it is still as necessary for achieving financial success as it once was, with 45 percent not so sure. Meanwhile, 60 percent thought that the University of California public is largely or completely unaffordable, and 55 percent believe that California State University, specifically, is not affordable.

With universities costs skyrocketing, 63 percent of those surveyed said there are multiple pathways, including college and apprenticeships, to a profitable career, compared with 33 percent who said four-year degrees were needed.

For the academic year 2021-2022, the average price of tuition and fees for colleges in California was $3,8826 for in-state students and $19,929 for out-of-state. The latter amount is higher than the national average of $18,038.

“Respondents are clearly worried about sticker shock as it relates to the costs of higher education, but data tells us that a credential or degree is still a critical means for economic and social mobility for both students and California more broadly,” Jake Brymner, the California Student Aid Commission’s deputy director of policy and public affairs, told the Times.

“Despite California’s generous state financial aid system, its complexity means that students and their families do not get a clear message about how those resources are available to them.”

The UC system, which consists of ten campuses, fully covers tuition for 55 percent of its California undergraduates that use state Cal Grants as well as aid from the institution. Institutional aid is provided through collected tuition revenue, philanthropy, and various other resources.

In a statement to the Times from UC, they outlined their understanding of the economic challenges many students and families faced as a result of the pandemic.

“However, it is important to underscore that a UC degree continues to be one of the most valuable investments available to Californians,” the statement said. “Our campuses have graduated more than 40,000 California students a year over the last decade, the majority of which go on to work in California and double their earnings within the first decade of their career.”

According to an April 2022 study conducted by Education Data Initiative, California ranks 13th among states for the highest student loan debts, with the average borrower ending up in the whole for $37,084. California’s total student loan of $141.8 billion is the highest in the nation.

More than 51 percent of those borrowers are under the age of 35 and 20 percent of them owe between $20,000 and $40,000. In total, about 10 percent of the state’s population currently has student loan debt.

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