Californians Divided on Necessity of College

College Education

A new study has shown that Californians' opinions about the necessity of college are deeply divided along racial lines, but not in the way that you may be expecting: white people, who attend college in large numbers, are the ones who usually think that it is unnecessary, while minority populations tend to view it more favorably.

The statistics come from a survey done by the Public Policy Institute of California. It involved more than 1,700 adults in the state and was done between October 8 and October 17, 2017.

Among the finds: about two out of every three Latinos believe that college is necessary for success in life. Asian-Americans and African-Americans are more split, with only a slight majority of each taking the pro-college position. With whites, however, the number is much lower, at only 35 percent.

There are several reasons that people have suggested for this trend. According to Audrey Dow, who is senior vice president of the Campaign for College Opportunity, the fact that whites attend college more, and generally have an easier time getting in and affording it, may simply mean that they are more likely to take it for granted and not realize how much of an impact it has on one's future.

In white families, it is common that modern young adults will be the second, third or even fourth generation to attend college. In contrast, minority students are more likely to be the first in their families, and view college as an opportunity to achieve upward mobility.

“Most people earning over $80,000 think there are many ways to succeed. Obviously many do have college degrees, but maybe they feel their own personal qualities or social networks account for that," added Mark Baldassare, the Public Policy Institute of California's CEO and president.

This may also account for why Asian-Americans, who attend college more than other minorities, have only 54 percent saying that it is necessary, with 45 percent saying it is not.

Another factor may be cost. 56 percent of California residents say that they consider tuition payments and debt to be a major issue. While this could be expected to lower the view of college across racial boundaries, it may affect whites and Asians more—they have seen their parents go into debt and struggle with it despite well paying jobs, and thus question how valuable a college degree is in the long run.