Earlier this month, former President Donald Trump called for the abolition of the U.S. Department of Education, which monitors, distributes, and establishes the policies for federal financial aid. This comes after former Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos stated at a conservative education summit that this department, which she previously headed, should be eliminated.

When it comes to tax-payer funded education, Americans have different ideas as to how their money should be spent. Though Republicans tend to take a harder line against public education, Democrats are also starting to wonder if certain degrees are worth the cost. So in August, Intelligent.com surveyed American adults to find out how they’d like to see their tax dollars being used to fund higher education.

Key findings:

  • 27% of Republicans want to reduce funding for public colleges and universities along with 17% of Democrats
  • 68% of Republicans and 63% of Democrats are ‘very’ or ‘somewhat’ supportive of eliminating typically low-earning degree options from public colleges and universities
  • Support for student loan forgiveness increased in 2022 among both Democrats and Republicans

Republicans seek to reduce funding of state colleges as they ‘spread liberal propaganda’

When asked what they would like to see happen, in terms of funding for public colleges and universities in their state, 27% of Republicans said they want to reduce funding.

Although 75% of Republican respondents support Donald Trump, there was no difference between those who support him and those who do not when it came to funding of state colleges. Alongside the Republicans, a number of Democrats (17%) also want to reduce funding.

Of the total Republicans who want to reduce funding for public colleges, 20% want to eliminate it completely. That percentage is higher for those who support Trump (24%).

The most common reasons for Republicans wanting to reduce funding are they believe that higher educational institutions spread liberal propaganda (42%) and students should pay for their own education (40%). Additionally, 32% simply do not want to fund others’ education.

Nearly 1 in 5 Democrats would also support reducing funding

Seventeen percent of Democratic respondents say they would choose to reduce funding for public colleges and universities. For Democrats who want to reduce funding, the top reasons include the belief that higher education does not benefit the state’s economy (31%), that higher education institutions spread liberal propaganda (28%), and that higher education is pointless (27%).

Respondents were given the ability to offer additional information. Those who want to reduce funding wrote in that:

  • “Some colleges are unnecessarily expensive and there’s many degrees that aren’t worth the cost/have no market value”
  • “Higher education, as in universities, is not the only way to learn or educate”
  • “Until there’s a more even balance of conservative mindset, higher education is not worth funding”
  • “Colleges are too big and making too much profit for very little return for students”

Majority of Democrats want to increase funding because ‘cost of college is too high’

The majority (58%) of Democrats want to increase funding of state colleges and universities.

For most, this is because they think the cost of college is too high (80%). The other main reasons Democrats want to increase funding are the belief that college should be accessible for all (74%) and that higher education benefits society (60%). In addition, 56% want to avoid a future student loan crisis.

One-third of Republicans also want to increase funding because they believe the cost of college is too high (74%), college should be accessible for all (61%), and higher education benefits society (44%).

Write-in responses from those who want to increase funding included sentiments such as, “We are letting lenders completely destroy the lives of students years before they graduate. It’s a scam and should be illegal,” and “Americans shouldn’t be forced to pay off outlandishly large loans so early in their lives. This restricts their ability to strengthen the economy as they have less buying power. Paying $100’s of dollars every month for years/decades is debilitating.”

Democrats and Republicans agree that low-earning degrees are not worth the cost

Not everyone believes that all types of degrees should be offered to students at public schools. For some, this is because certain degrees don’t have a good return on investment. In fact, it’s been argued that more than a quarter of degrees leave students financially worse off than if they’d never enrolled.

One survey respondent who “somewhat supports” eliminating low earning degrees wrote that, “There are many degrees that aren’t worth the cost or have no market value.”

While 68% of Republicans are ‘very’ or ‘somewhat supportive’ of eliminating typically low-earning degree options from public colleges and universities in their state, the majority of Democrats feel the same (62%).

Support for student loan forgiveness has increased among both Democrats and Republicans

When asked about the amount of student loan forgiveness they support, 60% of Americans said they support forgiving at least $10,000 for all borrowers, and 25% support a targeted approach to loan forgiveness, and 15% don’t support any forgiveness at all. There was more support from Democrats than Republicans for at least $10,000 in loan forgiveness for all borrowers (69% vs 50%).

Prior to 2022, only 58% of Americans supported forgiving at least $10,000 per borrower, 22% supported a targeted approach, and 20% didn’t support any forgiveness. Similar to 2022 data, there was still more support from Democrats than Republicans on forgiving at least $10,000 (67% vs 49%).

Forty-two percent of Americans say they are now more supportive of student loan forgiveness than before the start of this year, and only 7% say their support has decreased. Fifty one percent say their level of support hasn’t changed.

Write in responses from respondents who increased their support included:

  • “I learned more but also, it’s not enough to just forgive the debt. We need to stop loaning individuals so much in student loans when there’s no guarantee that they will graduate. You wouldn’t give an 18 year old who has no job a 200k mortgage loan, but we don’t blink an eye to give them that much in student loan debt? It’s insane”
  • “The student loan debt is insatiable”

Write in responses from respondents who decreased their support included:

  • “I don’t think it should be my responsibility as a taxpayer to pay for someone else’s debts”
  • “I paid mine. They knew the sticker price when they agreed to attend. No one paid mine when I went. Why not pay my mortgage? This is insane”

Americans who have changed their level of support for forgiveness point to inflation and learning more about the issue.

Methodology

All data found within this report derives from a survey commissioned by Intelligent.com and conducted online by survey platform Pollfish. In total, 1,250 Americans ages 18 and older were survey.

This survey was conducted on August 12, 2022. All respondents were asked to answer all questions truthfully and to the best of their abilities. For full survey data, please email Content Marketing Manager Ashli Horrell at [email protected]