High Schoolers Are Losing Confidence in The Benefits of a College Degree: Study

by State Brief

New data suggests that prospective college students are finding fewer and fewer reasons to obtain a degree.

Inside Higher Ed recently highlighted a new report by the Gates Foundation-funded HCM Strategists and Edge Research revealing that high school students and young adults have a declining view of the benefits of a college degree.

[RELATED: Latest trends underscore declining value of degrees in global job markets]

The study, ”Continuing to Explore the Exodus from Higher Education,”compares the results of focus groups and a national survey conducted in 2023 to findings from a 2022 Gates Foundation report titled, “Where are the students?.” Researchers found that high schoolers and non-enrolled adults ages 18-30 still associate some benefits with attending college, but those perceived benefits were in decline compared to findings from 2022.

The percentage of non-enrolled adults surveyed who consider reasons to go to college, such as to gain more money or get a better job, as important or very important has also dropped from the year before.

At the same time, however, non-enrolled adults continue to perceive an increasing benefit to other options such as licenses, certificates, and trade schools. 

In conclusion, the study’s researchers write that, “Despite our understanding of the value of higher education, perceptions among these high school students and non-enrolled audiences make it clear that institutions need to prove their value to them.”

[RELATED: 4 times employers ditched 4-year degrees in 2023]

”In particular, why does the value of a 2-year or 4-year degree outweigh the value of credentials and job training programs?,” the researchers write. “Both High Schoolers and Non-Enrollees see and select other paths that are shorter, cheaper, and/or more directly linked to specific job opportunities.”

“At the end of the day, higher education has a lot of work to do to convince these audiences of its value,” HCM consultant Terrell Dunn told Inside Higher Ed.

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