June 2, 2011

Purpose of College Education

47 vs. 39

Americans are split on the main purpose of college, with 47% saying it is to teach work-related skills and 39% saying it is to help a student grow personally and intellectually.

Do we send students to college mainly to grow and learn or strictly to prepare for a future career? The American public is somewhat split, but ultimately comes down in favor of the latter on balance. Just under half of the public (47%) says the main purpose of a college education is to teach work-related skills and knowledge. Another 39%, however, says that college is an opportunity for students to grow personally and intellectually. A little more than one-in-ten (12%) say the time spent at college should be dedicated to both pursuits. Americans who did not attend a four-year college are the most likely to say college is best for developing work-related skills — 55% say this should be the mission of college. Americans who did attend a four-year school, however, lean the other way: 50% say that individual growth is more important; 40% say learning skills for a career. Adults with a post-graduate education, by a 56%-to-26% margin, are the most likely to say the mission of college should be to help an individual grow personally and intellectually rather than to prepare students for a career. Read More