Poll: Majority of Americans Think College Education Is ‘Very Important’

Seven in 10 polled say college education is "very important," up from 36 percent in 1978

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Students at college commencement ceremony.

More Americans believe in the value of a college education today than did in the 1970s and 1980s, according to a new poll.

The Gallup poll out Tuesday found that seven in 10 Americans consider a college education to be “very important,” up from 36 percent in 1978. Only six percent of respondents said college education was “not too important.”

Seventy-five percent of women polled said college was very important, compared to 65 percent of men, which comes as no surprise given that more women than men are enrolled in college. Percentages were also  higher among people ages 18 to 29 (74 percent of whom find obtaining a college education essential) and non-whites, which includes Asians, Hispanics, and African-Americans. Seventy-nine percent of non-whites said getting a college education is very important, while 66 percent of whites said the same.

The results of this survey would appear at first glance to be good news for President Barack Obama’s goal of the United States having the highest number of college graduates in the world by 2020, but according to education reports and research, the country still has a ways to go.

Though the majority agree that getting a college degree is valuable — and it will be in the future when over 60 percent of jobs are projected to require a college degree — 21 million people, including about 41 percent of 18 to 24 year-olds, were enrolled in an institution of higher learning in 2010, and enrollment has steadily decreased over the past two years. About 19.5 million people were enrolled during the Fall 2013 semester, down 1.5 percent compared to the Fall 2012 semester, according to the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center.

In terms of completion, the National Center for Education Statistics reports that in 2011 59 percent of full-time, first-time undergraduate students completed their degrees within six years.

The Gallup survey of 1,031 American adults has a margin of error of plus or minus four percent.