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
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
-- 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