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January 23, 2019

The 101: The Higher Ed Poll of Texas

Examining Texans' Attitudes about Higher Education

The 101: The Higher Ed Poll of Texas (The 101),  commissioned by the nonprofit, accredited online university WGU Texas, the Independent Colleges & Universities of Texas (ICUT), and the Texas Association of Community Colleges (TACC), examines Texans’ attitudes about higher education statewide. The survey was conducted by independent researchers James Henson, Ph.D. and Joshua Blank, Ph.D. of Strategic Research Associates, (SRATEX, LLC.)

WGU Texas has organized a statewide higher education poll for the past three years, and 2019 marks the first collaboration with other higher education entities.

The 101 poll shows that a majority of Texans (60 percent) who don’t view their job as a career believe they need more education or training to move ahead and 78 percent believe that a degree or certification is essential to improving their careers. For four years, the poll shows that most Texans believe that affordability (75 percent) and student debt (79 percent) remain major obstacles to earning a degree among those who lack one. And of those polled who say student debt is a major problem, 93 percent believe that having a degree beyond high school is either very important (67 percent) or somewhat important (26 percent). Despite concerns about cost, most Texans with degrees say the cost was worth it in both economic and personal terms.

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Key results.

Among Texans polled:

  • 93 percent of Texans agree that it is essential to have an educated workforce if Texas’ economy is going to compete with other states.
  • Among those without a college degree, financial concerns top obstacles for not completing a college degree. The number one obstacle cited was “the cost of a degree” (75 percent), followed by job or work responsibilities (66 percent) and taking on student loan debt (65 percent).
  • Both Texans with and without student loan debt see student debt as a major problem. Overall, 79 percent of Texans view the problem of student loan debt for people in the United States as a “major problem,” including 77 percent of those who currently hold no student loan debt themselves.
  • 65 percent of those with associate’s degrees, 77 percent of those with college degrees, and 72 percent of those with graduate degrees say the cost of their education has or will pay off.
  • Texans agree that having a degree or certificate beyond high school is somewhat or very important (93 percent), and that those degrees are a source of pride for most people (93 percent); lead to a higher income (87 percent) and a better quality of life (83 percent); increases the respect one receives from others (81 percent); and are essential for getting a good job (78 percent).
  • Among those who say that they need more education and training to get the job or career that they want, would do so at a community college (33 percent) or enroll at a 4-year public college or university (35 percent).

Methodology.

The 101: The Higher Ed Poll of Texas was conducted between January 7-13, 2019 and drawn from 5,500 records to yield 800 completed interviews. The final data set is weighted by race/ethnicity, age, and gender to achieve representativeness as defined by the Texas State Health Department’s population projections for the 2018 Texas Adult Population. The overall margin of error for the poll is +/- 3.46 percentage points. The survey was designed and conducted by public opinion researchers James Henson, Ph.D. and Joshua Blank, Ph.D., SRATEX, LLC.

WGU Texas is an online, nonprofit, competency-based university established to expand Texans’ access to higher education throughout the state. Formed through a partnership between the state of Texas and nationally-recognized Western Governors University, WGU Texas is open to all qualified Texas residents. The university offers more than 60 undergraduate and graduate degree programs in the high-demand career fields of business, K-12 teacher education, information technology, and health professions, including nursing.

Independent Colleges and Universities of Texas, Inc. (ICUT), a nonprofit association, is the voice for Texas' fully accredited private colleges and universities. For over 50 years, it has fulfilled its mission of helping policymakers recognize the importance and value of the independent sector of higher education by successfully articulating the sector's needs and aspirations.

ICUT supports Texas independent nonprofit colleges and universities by strengthening member institutions through advocacy, policy research and collaboration.

We work with lawmakers in the Texas Legislature in an ongoing effort to promote solid policies that improve student education across our 50 public community college member districts.

Although much of that work takes place during the Texas Legislative session every two years, building relationships with legislators is a continual process. Throughout the year, we educate decision-makers and influencers about the needs of community colleges – to give Texas students the best chance for academic success.

In the news.

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  • Austin Statesman Texans in poll say certificate or degree essential
  • Houston Chronicle Texans recognize the value of a degree, but still consider college costs and student debt obstacles

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Joan Mitchell, VP Public Relations

801-428-5463
jmitchell@wgu.edu
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