Education Editorial: Commonwealth Education Poll and higher education

By: Bill Bosher - email

The Commonwealth Education Poll conducted each year by CEPI in the Wilder School at VCU just released responses to questions about higher education.

Virginians clearly believe that its colleges and universities are doing a good job in preparing graduates in science, communication, and job preparation. But there is a generational difference in the responses. Of the more than 800 Virginians polled, those 18 to 34 had a much stronger view of job preparation than those 45 to 64. Young people, more than their parents who are paying the bill, believe that they are ready for the world of work. It seems that higher education is doing a better job of marketing to the users than they are the owners. Whether real or simply perceived, the gap needs to be addressed.

The poll also asks about priorities in state funding. About 70% of the respondents say that K-12 and mental health need more funding. Perhaps due to the persistent challenges of the economy, 60% believe that more money should be provided in aid to dependent families. Historically, at or below 50% of those polled believe that more should be spent on roads and higher education. The lowest priority each year is prisons.

Again, whether real or perceived, Virginians seem to be evenly divided, as with transportation, about the need for more money colleges and universities. It may be that each new published 6 or 7 figure salary, despite the source of the revenue, sends the message that colleges and universities have enough. While Virginians seem to feel blessed with a higher education system that prepares young people, they are as confused about funding it as they are about fixing potholes in the highway.

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