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Young people think college is critical but too expensive

November 9, 2011 | 10:56 am

Students at UCLA study. Many worry about the expense of college.

Amid today's grim economy, young people think higher education is an even more critical stepping stone for their generation than it was for their parents.

But they worry that college is far less affordable than it was just five years ago. They fear taking on loads of student-loan debt. And they oppose proposals to cut federal financial aid.

Those are the findings of a survey released Wednesday by three public-policy groups -- the Institute for College Access & Success, Demos, and Young Invincibles. The groups polled 872 adults, ages 18 to 34, from Sept. 25 to Oct. 4.  The margin of error is 3.32 percentage points.

In a nod to the rancorous debate about the role of the federal government in backing student loans and funding other elements of higher education, the sponsors of the study stressed that respondents' opinions cut across racial, econonomic and -- most important -- political lines.

"Young adults across party lines are looking for leadership from Congress and sending them a message: make college more, not less, affordable," Jennifer Mishory, deputy director of Young Invincibles, said in a statement. "Protect the student aid that helps millions afford college and job training every year."

For example, "significant majorities" of Democrats, independents and Republicans are against reducing  access to federal Pell grants or charging interest on loans while students are still in school, according to the survey.

The poll found that 76% of people say college is less affordable today than five years ago and 73% believe graduates have more debt than they can handle. And even though it could reduce the federal deficit, 3 of every 4 respondents do not want Pell grants to be cut.

“This survey clearly shows how young adults view higher education today: It’s more important than ever but also less affordable and it comes with too much debt,” said Lauren Asher, president of TICAS.


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Photo: Students study at UCLA. Credit: Mariah Tauger/Los Angeles Times