Poll: Majority of Americans Say College ‘Not Worth the Cost’

Student Loan
AP Photo/Butch Dill

A majority of Americans believe college is “Not worth the cost because people often graduate without specific job skills and with a large amount of debt to pay off,” a Wall Street Journal-NORC poll found.

Fifty-six percent say, “college is not worth the cost,” while 42 percent say it is “worth the cost because people have a better chance to get a good job and earn more income over their lifetime.” The Journal-NORC survey polled 1,019 people from March 1-13, mostly online, and the margin of error was plus or minus 4.1 percentage points at the 95 percent confidence level among all adults.

NORC released a survey in 2022 showing that Americans believe cost is the primary reason people do not go to college.

“Seventy-five percent of Americans believe people do not attend college because they cannot afford it. Beyond the price tag, many believe that students may need to work immediately (62 percent), and more than half (59 percent) say that Americans could earn a good living without a college degree,” according to the pollster. 

The Journal survey also asked respondents about their household’s financial situations and to rate specific issues as a “major concern,” a “minor concern,” or “not a concern.” Sixty-seven percent say student loan debt is “not a concern,” while 17 percent say it is a major concern, and 16 percent say it is a minor concern.

Respondents reported being most concerned about inflation (65 percent), housing (43 percent), and health care and prescription drug costs (41 percent). Americans also say the cost of living is “rising and creating major financial strains” (28 percent), is “rising and creating minor financial strains” (32 percent),” or is “not a problem for me now, but will become one if costs keep going up” (32 percent). Only six percent say they are “not concerned with the cost of living.”

Additionally, 44 percent say, “my finances are in worse condition than I expected for this stage of my life.” Thirty-nine percent say their finances are “about where I expected them to be for this stage in my life,” and 17 percent say their finances are better than expected. 


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