Americans view a college education as more important then ever, even as it becomes less and less affordable. They see students graduating with more debt, and worry that paying off student loans is a serious problem for both middle-class and low-income families. They believe government should be doing more to help, and they support reforms to make loan payments more manageable.
The national public opinion survey was commissioned by the Project on Student Debt and conducted by the bipartisan polling team of Hart Research Associates and American Viewpoint. Key findings include:
- Eighty percent of American adults feel a college education is more important today than it was 10 years ago. But 66% also say that affording college is more difficult now, and 70% expect it to be even harder in the future.
- Three in five adults (59%) and two in three college parents (63%) say college students today graduate with too much debt. Two-thirds of adults (66%) say it is hard to repay student loans.
- Sixty-four percent of adults say the federal government is doing too little to make higher education available and affordable.
- Sixty-one percent of adults and 77% of recent students favor a proposal to cap student loan payments at 10% of income, even if it involves some additional government spending.
- More than three-fourths of Americans (78%) support a refundable tax credit for student loan interest costs. That support, which crosses demographic and party lines, is strong despite possible costs of up to $2 billion per year.
The survey was conducted March 13–18, 2006, with 804 adults, plus oversamples of 251 recent students (18- to 29-year-olds who are enrolled in or have attended college) and 254 college parents (parents of current college students or recent graduates). Its margin of error is 3.5 percent for all adults, 4.7 percent for college parents, and 5.2 percent for recent students.