Many years ago we heard a statement that the real job of a parent is to help their children find their purpose.

Within this context, it is terrific to see a report from Gallup and Strada Education Network reveal the views of U.S. adults asking about their experiences in postsecondary education.  This is a powerful effort by two national organizations to understand how Americans view their college education. The inaugural report, “On Second Thought: U.S. Adults Reflect on Their Education Decisions,” reveals that more than 51 percent of U.S. adults would change at least one aspect of their education path — major, school or type of degree — if they had to do it all over again.

Brandon Busteed, the executive director of education and workforce development with Gallup said, “The fact that millions of Americans report receiving a high-quality education indicates broad satisfaction with the postsecondary experience for most consumers.  However, the fuller picture from this report suggests that consumers need better information and resources to make more informed decisions about their education-to-employment path.’

In addition, Bill Hansen, the president & CEO of Strad Education Network and a sponsor of the study correctly asserts that “While consumer insights have had a profound impact on improving outcomes in other critical areas of our economy, this kind of research has been largely absent in higher education,”

This week’s report focuses on how individuals who had previously enrolled in or completed postsecondary education answered three key questions:

If you had to do it all over again, would you still:

Pursue the same level of education? 
Pursue the same area of study?
Attend the same institution?

Essential Findings:

  • Thirty-six percent of U.S. adults would choose a different major, 28 percent would attend a different institution, and 12 percent would pursue a different degree type.
  • Those with some college but no degree are the most likely to say they would change at least one of these education decisions.
    Individuals who complete a vocational, trade or technical program are more positive about their education decisions than are individuals with an associate or bachelor’s degree. Those with postgraduate work or a degree are the least likely to say they would make different education decisions.
  • Given the opportunity to make changes, U.S. adults are most likely to select a different major. This is particularly true of students with some college but no degree and those who complete a bachelor’s degree: Two-fifths of these students would choose a different major.
  • Bachelor’s degree holders who completed their education later in life — those aged 30 or older at the time of graduation — are more positive about their education choices than those who completed at a younger age.
  • STEM graduates at all education levels are the least likely to report they would pursue a different field of study.
  • Despite the majority’s desire to make different educational choices, more than four out of five U.S. adults who completed a credential or a degree agree or strongly agree they received a high-quality education.

College is worth the Investment but mostly if you know your purpose.

Within these findings, there are messages for everyone.  Indeed, the Wall Street Journal highlights that  “students who rush into college, incur debt and drop out without a degree can be worse off than those who didn’t go at all—fueling an increasing backlash to the one-size-fits all push for students to go straight from high-school to the college quad.

For college parents’, we welcome the insights that Strada and Gallup provide. This is a great start and indeed, at College Parents of America, we believe that greater insight is needed to understand the influence of parents in promoting certain pathways towards our children’s independence and self-reliance.  Given the ever-growing cost of college, this is a timely topic for students and families across the country.