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Blog Post · April 19, 2016

Californians’ Views on the Value of College

An overwhelming majority of Californians view our higher education system as very important to the state’s quality of life and economic vitality over the next 20 years. More than two-thirds of Democrats and Republicans, as well as large majorities across the state’s regions and demographic groups, share this perception. In fact, there has been a general consensus on this issue among Californians since we began asking this question in 2007.

However, Californians report differing opinions about the necessity of a college education for individual success.

A majority of Californians (59%) in our most recent survey say that a college education is necessary to succeed in today’s work world, and more than two-thirds of Asians, Latinos, and blacks concur. But fewer than half of whites hold this view. Notably, the share of whites who say college is necessary has dropped 11 points since 2007, despite staying generally constant among other racial/ethnic groups.

Californians at the lower end of the income scale tend to believe that college is necessary, while higher-income residents are less inclined to this view. Two-thirds of Californians with household incomes below $40,000 think a college education is necessary, compared to about half of those with higher incomes. Among Californians with college degrees and those with no college education, solid majorities say college is a necessity. In contrast, only half of those with some college hold this view.

Democrats and Republicans are divided when it comes to the necessity of a college education in today’s work world: two-thirds of Democrats, compared to fewer than half of Republicans and independents, think of college education as a necessity. Since 2007, the share of Democrats holding this view has remained consistent, while the shares of Republicans and independents holding this view have declined 15 and 19 points, respectively.

Foreign-born adults are far more likely than those born in the United States (80% to 47%) to say college is necessary. Parents of children age 18 or younger are also far more likely than others (68% to 54%) to place high importance on a college education.

While most Californians view our higher education system as very important to the state’s future, differences in opinion emerge regarding the necessity of a college education. In particular, many Asians, blacks, and Latinos, as well as Californians with lower incomes, view a college education as necessary to succeed. These findings are especially salient as the issue of access to California’s higher education institutions gains prominence.

Learn more

Read the March PPIC Statewide Survey: Californians and Their Government
Visit the PPIC Higher Education Center


Access Equity Higher Education Political Landscape Population Statewide Survey