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 insurance. "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 them; -- 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 teachers.
SOURCE National Education Association