September 9, 2019 – Future of Work

Charles Koch Foundation Survey Shows Americans Believe in Transformational Impact of Colleges, Universities


Sept. 9, 2019, Arlington, VA – The Charles Koch Foundation today released the results of a new survey that reveals the majority of Americans believe the country’s colleges and universities play an important part in society, and have a positive impact on individual lives. Like other recent polls, such as the extensive work by Pew, this survey identified some ongoing challenges, but it also found several reasons to remain optimistic about the future direction of higher education.

“Colleges and universities are facing significant challenges. It’s encouraging to see that Americans still believe higher education is a path to advancement, both for individuals and society,” said Charles Koch Foundation executive director Ryan Stowers. “These findings also suggest that academic leaders have reason to celebrate the transformational benefits of science and education.”

The survey, which was conducted by YouGov in late August, found 62 percent of Americans believe there is still positive value in pursuing a degree. Roughly six in 10 (59%) would recommend that their children, relatives, or the children of people they know attend a college or university and 56 percent believe higher education has a positive transformational effect on students who continue their academic studies after high school.

U.S. colleges and universities were the sites of some of the most impactful discoveries, and this poll found Americans still consider institutions of higher education to be drivers of innovation. In fact, we found Americans think the country’s colleges and universities are as or more important than many other types of institutions and are one of the few places left in the nation where dissent and debate are encouraged to flourish for the greater good.

Specifically, a strong plurality of Americans see higher education as the best institution (with 45% rating it “Very good” or “good”) for allowing competing ideas to be heard, discussed, and considered – ahead of places of worship (36%), television (28%) and newspapers (32%), and their own community (40%). The poll also asked respondents to identify what institutions are the key drivers of innovation and progress in America. Colleges and universities (22 percent) tied was among the top 3 with businesses (23 percent) and communities (22 percent).

Of the respondents who attended at least some college, nearly half (47%) told YouGov that there was a professor or class that had a profound impact on their life.

“Many of us remember that teacher or professor who helped us discover and develop our talents and aptitudes,” said Stowers. “These experiences are made possible by the openness and critical thinking fostered by universities, and these findings show the Americans remain connected to the importance of that unique environment.”

Methodology: The survey was conducted between the 23rd and 26th of August 2019. Total sample size was 1533 U.S. adults. The survey was conducted using an online interview administered to members of the YouGov Plc panel of 1.2 million individuals who have agreed to be take part in surveys. The responding sample is weighted to the profile of the sample definition to provide a representative reporting sample.

ABOUT Charles Koch Foundation

The Charles Koch Foundation supports students and scholars pursuing research and expanding educational programs that help people reach their full potential.


YouGov is a global public opinion and data company that collects opinions from around the world about brands, politics and current affairs.