Economists and policymakers regularly tout higher education as one of the best long-term investments to reduce the income gap between white and minority families and to offer young people of all races a chance to succeed. To a large extent, the public agrees. In particular, minorities agree.
The latest Apollo Group/National Journal Next America Poll found that blacks and Hispanics are even more likely than whites to believe that a four-year college degree is essential for success. Minorities are more likely than whites to say that their parents expected and encouraged them to attend college. And African-Americans and Hispanics are far more likely than whites to believe that they would be more prosperous and successful if they had stayed in school longer.
The survey results underscore the strong attraction that higher education continues to have for most Americans — particularly minorities — despite soaring tuition costs and complaints that colleges don't always adequately prepare students for the rapidly changing workplace.
To be sure, Americans do not see education as a panacea. It doesn't come out on top when pollsters ask people what would have the biggest impact on speeding up economic growth and job creation. (More respondents chose having American companies invest more in the U.S. and less overseas.) And given four options for reducing the income gap between white and minority families, 40 percent said that "increasing the number of minority young people who graduate from high school and college" would be most effective. But 29 percent selected "more personal responsibility in the minority community." Less popular were the other two options: "more efforts to combat racial discrimination in the workplace" (13 percent) and "increasing integration of housing and schools" (6 percent). The remainder of respondents said they didn't know or refused to answer.