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Survey Finds that Most Recent College Graduates Are Satisfied With Their Higher Education Experiences

December 14, 2010

Almost 90 percent recent college alumni believe their higher education experiences were worth the time and money they spent, according to a poll conducted by The Winston Group on behalf of the American Council on Education (ACE). The national poll, conducted in early 2010, included 400 recent graduates of four- and two-year colleges and universities who ranged between 25 and 39 years old.  These early polling data were supplemented by a second ACE-administered survey of 400 similarly-aged recent graduates from 22 individual colleges and universities that volunteered to participate in the follow-up study. In both the national poll and the supplemental institutional data, only students who had successfully completed their degree or certificate programs were included in the results.

Responses from the individual institutional supplement ranged from 80 percent to 97 percent agreeing that their college education was worth the time and money. In addition, satisfaction with college choice and outcomes appear to be broad-based among the survey participants. Nearly 80 percent of the surveyed alumni reported that they would attend the same institution. About 81 percent said their postsecondary experiences helped them prepare adequately for life after college, and 85 percent said their institution prepared them for their current job. However, only 62 percent reported they believe colleges in general are preparing students for demands of the modern workforce.

Survey participants were also asked to identify what they thought were the most appropriate roles for colleges and universities. The plurality, 31 percent, said that "teaching students how to think critically" was colleges' most important purpose, followed by "preparing students for employment" (28 percent) and "preparing students to solve problems that face our country" (17 percent). Only 2 percent felt "serve the community" was the most important role, while 6 percent selected "produce innovations that fuel economic development." 

Paying for College

ACE's data also provide new insights about how recent college graduates think about paying for college. Despite the generally rising cost of higher education, more than three-quarters of survey participants said that their institution charged a fair price for their education. In addition, the plurality (40 percent) of respondents said that students and their families should be primarily responsible for financing their higher education. Only 30 percent said that the federal government should bear the primary role in paying for college, and just 20 percent said states should play the predominate role. Along the same lines, 52 percent of respondents said institutions rather than the federal or state governments should be responsible for keeping higher education affordable.

More information about the ACE national poll results is available from the ACE Web site


Ken Redd
Director, Research and Policy Analysis