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WGU Texas Partners with Community & Private College Associations for First-of-its-Kind Statewide Higher Education Poll

The 101: The Higher Ed Poll of Texas Explores Texans’ Opinions on a Wide Range of Important Higher Education Topics

Jan 23, 2019

AUSTIN — WGU Texas, the Texas Association of Community Colleges (TACC), and the Independent Colleges & Universities of Texas, Inc. (ICUT) released the results of The 101: The Higher Ed Poll of Texas (The 101) today. While WGU Texas facilitated a statewide higher education poll on its own three times prior, this year marks the Texas online higher education leader’s first collaboration with the community college and private college associations.

“As WGU Texas celebrates its 10,000th graduate and nearly 12,000 current students, we are proud to convene this poll with two of the state’s most respected higher education associations as a public service to Texas,” said Dr. Steven Johnson, Chancellor of WGU Texas.

“WGU’s student population is primarily made up of non-traditional, contemporary learners who want to accelerate their careers but often face financial and personal obstacles when exploring higher education opportunities” said Johnson. We’re proud to offer them a flexible, quality, and affordable path to a bachelor or graduate degree. The poll’s findings should prove valuable to our state leaders as they consider the future of higher education in The Lone Star State.”

Key findings of the 101.

More than 90 percent of Texans agree that it is essential to have an educated workforce if Texas’ economy is going to compete with other states.

Texans continue to consider the cost of higher education an obstacle to obtaining a degree and worry about student loan debt as both a personal and a policy problem.

  • Among those without a college degree, financial concerns top the list of obstacles for why a student does not complete 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.

Despite concerns about cost, Texans with degrees say that the cost was worth it in both economic and personal terms.

  • Sixty-five percent of those with associate’s degrees, 77 percent of those with college degrees, and 72 percent of those with graduate degrees say that the money they or their family has paid for their education has or will pay off.
  • A majority of Texans with associate’s, college, or graduate degrees say that the value most college graduates get back over their lifetime is equal in value or worth more than what they paid for attending college.
  • Large majorities of Texans also continue to 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).

“The poll’s findings reaffirm our commitment to offering affordable, accessible and relevant education and training to all Texans,” said Jacob Fraire, President and CEO of the Texas Association of Community Colleges (TACC). “Working with colleges across all sectors, we believe broader access makes higher education possible for qualified students, no matter their place in life, and we will continue to advance the individual aspirations of the students we serve.”

“What we know is that a college degree offers a special key that makes access to future opportunity and fulfilled ambition possible—be it better job prospects, increased earning potential, an enhanced quality of life, greater personal enrichment, or all of the above,” remarked Ray Martinez, President of the Independent Colleges and Universities of Texas, Inc. (ICUT). “These poll results should help policymakers in Texas as they make important funding decisions going forward.”

“When you examine the numbers in ‘The 101’ poll, they support our experience with WGU Texas students,” added Chancellor Johnson. “What these results reveal is that there is an increased likelihood—with the right opportunities and access—that Texans can complete their pursuit of a higher education degree or certificate. When legislators see what’s at stake, and how greater degree completion could positively impact our state economy and workforce development, we know they’ll continue to do more to support the efforts of this state’s most innovative institutions of higher education.”

The 101 was conducted by independent researchers James Henson, Ph.D., and Joshua Blank, Ph.D., of Strategic Research Associates, (SRATEX, LLC.). Approximately 5,500 records were drawn to yield 800 completed interviews conducted between January 7-13, 2019. 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.

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