The annual survey from The Wall Street Journal and National Opinion Research Center (NORC) finds 42% still back pursuing a degree after high school, but that number is down from 49% in 2017 and 53% in 2013.
On the flip side, 56% in the newest poll said a four-year degree isn’t worth the cost when 40% felt that way back in 2013, a full decade ago.
According to a Business Insider story about the survey, the poll mirrors a drop in college enrollment from 21 million students in 2010 to 18 million in 2021. The COVID pandemic likely exacerbated that drop, the story pointed out.
Andrew Handel at American Legislative Exchange Council says the drop in support for college can be traced to several issues but the sky-high cost tops his list of reasons. He blames that on the federal government subsidizing student loans.
“It just turns into a basic economic question at that point,” he says. “If the government is going to give money to anybody who wants to go to school, then obviously the colleges are automatically incentivized to start increasing their tuition rates. So that's definitely the biggest thing."
Handel believes more teens are looking more closely at two-year community colleges, which means lower tuition, and little or no debt, and a quicker start on a career path.
Community college students can also save thousands by transferring to a university after finishing their community college studies.