College Affordability Set to Emerge as Sleeper Campaign Issue, New NEA Survey Finds

Rising Cost of College a Powerful Economic Concern for Parents and Students

This November

Sep 17, 2008, 01:00 ET from National Education Association

    WASHINGTON, Sept. 17 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- The rising cost of
 college is a critical, yet largely overlooked concern of voters this
 election year, a major National Education Association (NEA)/Project New
 West survey released today finds. According to the new survey, the majority
 of voters believe a college education is necessary to make ends meet in
 today's global economy, but they feel struggling middle class families
 don't get the help they need to pay for it.
     "With the cost of college tuition rising faster than personal income,
 consumer prices, and health insurance, it's no wonder college affordability
 is shaping up to be the sleeper pocketbook issue of the 2008 campaign,"
 said NEA President Dennis Van Roekel. "Candidates should take note: the
 rising cost of college is a potent ingredient in the economic anxiety
 brewing within the electorate, especially politically undecided parents."
     Seventy percent of parents of college students surveyed said that
 making college more affordable was an important issue to them in the
 upcoming election -- 34 percent said it was the most important issue to
 them. For current college students, those figures stood at 65 percent and
 34 percent, respectively.
     The majority of survey participants said college affordability is a
 national issue and the federal government should play a substantial role in
 addressing skyrocketing tuition costs. Respondents overwhelmingly favored
 policy proposals that sought to fulfill the notion that deserving children
 who work hard and play by the rules should be afforded the opportunity to
 attend college. In fact, every proposal to lower the cost of college
 tuition tested in NEA's survey was met with majority level support or more.
     It's clear that people make real sacrifices in order to attend college
 today. Survey participants reported cutting back on budget expenses, such
 as dining out and buying clothes, in order to pay for college. Others
 reported taking on another job, and a few even got rid of their health
     "In the midst of the current economic turmoil, it has been easy to lose
 sight of the difficulty faced by thousands of low- and middle-income
 families when determining how they can possibly afford college. This survey
 reflects that those difficult discussions are not lost upon the majority of
 American families who are forced to make tough choices that not only impact
 their children's future, but the future of America in terms of our global
 competitiveness," said Robert M. Brandon, Coordinator of the Campaign for
 College Affordability.
     The NEA survey also showed that voters are concerned that runaway
 tuition prices threaten to undermine our nation's economic stability. The
 majority of respondents believe college affordability is key to sustaining
 our nation's competitive edge in today's global economy and building
 long-term prosperity for our nation and our children.
     Among the NEA survey's additional findings:
     -- 78% of those surveyed said it is now more difficult to afford a
 college education than it was 10 years ago;
     -- 64% said higher education is no longer a luxury, it's necessary to
 make ends meet;
     -- 64% also agree that the middle class doesn't get enough help paying
 for college;
     -- Concerns about college affordability are particularly salient with
 Hispanics: 48% of those surveyed said it was the most important issue to
     -- By a nearly 2 to 1 margin, those surveyed favored a plan to create a
 $4,000 a year tax credit for tuition and fees if a student commits to
 giving 100 hours of public service each year (Senator Barack Obama's
 college affordability plan) over a plan to expand lender-of-last resort
 capabilities for each state's guarantee agency (Senator John McCain's
 college affordability plan).
     Project New West conducted the NEA-commissioned survey from July 21,
 2008 through August 3, 2008. The groundbreaking survey employed a blended
 methodology sample as well as oversamples of parents, Hispanics, and a
 portion of recent graduates reached primarily using telephone interviews.
 Current college students and recent graduates were reached via the
 Internet. The findings are based on a survey of 825 likely voters augmented
 by the following oversamples: 160 geographic interviews and interviews with
 460 current college students, 476 recent college graduates, 683 individuals
 with student loans, 487 parents of college students, and 335 Hispanics.
     The National Education Association is the nation's largest professional
 organization, representing 3.2 million elementary and secondary teachers,
 higher education faculty, education support professionals, school
 administrators, retired educators and students preparing to become

SOURCE National Education Association