As colleges and universities across the country face lower enrollment rates and soaring costs due to inflation, many have taken steps to reduce their spending by cutting certain majors and areas of study. For example, last year, the University of Alaska cut programs including sociology, creative writing, and environmental science.

Since many of the degree programs on the chopping block are within the liberal arts, which stereotypically do not lead to high-paying careers, we wanted to find out if Americans agree that low-paying degree programs should be eliminated.

Our survey of 1,500 respondents revealed that:

  • 51% of Americans agree that public colleges should stop offering degree programs that lead to low-paying jobs
  • 4 in 10 say students in programs that lead to low-paying jobs shouldn’t qualify for federal financial aid
  • Gender studies, art history, religious studies, and ethnic studies are among the degree programs Americans would most like to see eliminated

More Than Half of Americans Say Public Colleges Should Stop Offering Degrees That Lead to Low-Paying Jobs

Twenty-five percent of respondents said that they believe public colleges should stop offering all low-paying degrees, while 26% would like them to stop offering some low-paying degrees. Gender studies (38%), art history (30%), religious studies (20%), and ethnic studies (19%) were at the top of respondents’ lists of degrees they’d like to see colleges stop offering.

There are just a few areas of study that Americans agree are necessary, even if they do lead to low-paying jobs. The degrees that the fewest number of respondents chose to eliminate included teaching (5%), psychology (5%), and social work (7%).

Proponents Say These Degrees Are a Waste of Students’ Money

When asked why they agree that colleges should stop offering certain degree programs, the top answer given was that they are a waste of students’ money. Write-in responses included sentiments such as “Cost of living,” “They charge too much for these degrees,” and “With today’s increasing inflation, higher paying degrees are necessary in order to survive”.

Those Against Eliminating Degrees Say Students Should Have the Freedom to Choose

Of the 49% of Americans who do not agree that colleges should eliminate low-paying degrees, the top reason given was that students should have the freedom to choose what they study.

43% Believe Students in Low-Paying Degree Programs Shouldn’t Get Federal Financial Aid

More than 4 in 10 respondents agree in most or all cases that students in low-paying degree programs shouldn’t qualify for federal financial aid. 54% of this group say this is because these students are unlikely to repay any loans they receive, and 50% say it’s a waste of federal dollars.

The top degree programs respondents would like to see eliminated from federal financial aid are again gender studies (32%), art history (23%), ethnic studies (20%), religious studies (18%), and classics (18%).

Both Political Parties in Favor of Eliminating Low-Paying Degrees

Interestingly enough, this seems to be an issue on which people from both sides of the political spectrum can agree. There were no notable differences in opinion on eliminating low-paying degrees or removing access to federal financial aid when looking at respondents identifying as Republicans vs Democrats.


This survey was commissioned by and conducted online by the survey platform Pollfish from September 12 to September 13, 2022. In total, 1,500 participants in the U.S. were surveyed. All participants had to pass through screening filters to ensure they met quality standards. For full survey results, please contact [email protected]