“One Degree of Separation: How Young Americans Who Don’t Finish College See Their Chances for Success” provides compelling insight into the barriers young adults face when considering higher education. The study compares the perceptions of young people who completed a college degree and those who obtained only a high school diploma. It found that many lack critical information necessary to further their educations, such as how to identify and apply for financial aid. Disturbingly, 72 percent of those have only a high school degree were unable to identify the FAFSA – the Free Application for Federal Student Aid.
The survey examined the views of a random sample of more than 600 young adults aged 26 to 34 years old, both those who completed either a college degree or postsecondary certificate and those whose highest credential is a high school diploma.
The report is available for download at www.publicagenda.org/files/pdf/one-degree-of-separation.pdf. Researchers also found a growing skepticism about whether college is worth it, especially among those students who need to borrow money to pay for it. Only 37 percent of those with only a high school diploma “strongly agree” that, even if you have to take out a loan, going to college is worth it in the long run.
Yet those with only a high school education also have a darker view of their economic future. Only 36 percent of high school graduates say it’s “very likely” they’ll be financially secure in their lifetime, compared to 55 percent of college graduates.
Nationally, fewer than half of students who enter four-year colleges complete a degree in six years. At community colleges, only 20 percent complete with a two-year degree in three years. This report examines in depth the outlook of the non-graduating majority.
“One Degree of Separation” is the third in a series of Public Agenda surveys probing young people’s attitudes on higher education and college completion. Previous reports, also funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, can be found at www.publicagenda.org/theirwholelivesaheadofthem.