Let's first frame this research. The AP-Stanford University poll was conducted during the last week of September, it involved interviews on land line and cell phones with 1001 adults across the nation, and it has a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 3.9 percentage points. It was made possible by a grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.
So, what did the survey say? See the bullets below:
- seventy (70) percent of respondents said that students should shoulder much of the blame (either a great deal or a lot of it) for low graduation rates, while 45 percent felt that way about parents.
- between a quarter and a third placed the blame with college administrators, professors, teachers, unions, state education officials, and federal education officials.
- not to leave out politics, 70 percent of Republicans and 68 percent of Democrats (an anomaly, of course, in that there is agreement here) fault students for low graduation rates. Republicans were also more likely (ever so slightly) than Democrats to cast blame on federal officials.
- fifty-seven percent of minorities blame parents while 40 percent of whites do.
- minorities are also more likely to blame professors and teachers, with 40 percent of the former doing so and just 29 percent of the latter.
- interestingly, when asked about the quality of schools, public four-year institutions received the highest grades, with 74 percent saying they were excellent or good. Not far behind, though, were nonprofit private colleges (71 percent), two-year public colleges (69 percent), and private-for-profit colleges (66 percent). Fifty-seven percent of respondents gave high marks to private for-profit trade schools.
This survey addressed the relationship between education and the economy as well. Eighty-percent agreed that the country's system of education has a major impact upon the health of its economy and they also agreed that the economy would improve if all Americans had at least a two-year degree.
So, the verdict here is convincing - the better the education that students experience (and degrees earned), the stronger will the US economy be. It certainly appears that money spent on education is seen as an investment and not an expense. And it would appear, too, that the perceived failure of schools to graduate students - at least in higher education - is the fault of students who attend and their parents as well.
But is that what the public really believes? And is anyone growing tired of this blame game?