If you had it to do all over again, what would you change about your college experience? Would you pursue a different major? Go to a different school? Start out at a community college, then transfer?
These questions are at the heart of a recent report from Gallup and the Strada Education Network. On Second Thought: U.S. Adults Reflect on Their Education Decisions is the first of a three-year series of Education Consumer Pulse reports Gallup and Strada plan to issue that deal with people’s perceptions of their education paths.
Some high-level findings from the report (which you can download here):
- Most would change something about their experience. Given the chance to do it all over again, 51 percent of Americans would change at least one of their significant education decisions. Thirty-six percent would choose a different major, 28 percent would choose a different institution and 12 percent would choose a different degree.
- For-profit grads more likely to have regrets. Respondents who attended a for-profit institution at the sub-baccalaureate level or who attended a private, nonprofit institution at the two-year level are more likely to regret their decisions than those who earned credentials from other institutions.
- Older students more positive. People who were 30 or older when they received their bachelor’s degree tended to be more positive about their education choices than do those who completed at a younger age.
- STEM grads are most satisfied. Students who earned degrees in the STEM fields — science, technology, engineering or math — are the
least likely to report they would make different education decisions.
- Overall, strong satisfaction. Perhaps the most important takeaway for educators is the finding that suggests higher education is still valued and seen as a key for success. More than four out of five U.S. adults who completed a credential or a degree either agree or strongly
agree that they received a high-quality education. Even those adults who started a degree but did not finish it consider their experiences to have
been high quality.
Gallup and Strada see this research initiative as filling an information gap. “While plenty of data are already collected about postsecondary education,” they write in the report, “there has not yet been a comprehensive look at student and graduate experiences and how those experiences shaped their lives.” Through the organizations’ new research platform, however, the researchers “aim to listen to education consumers at all levels of educational attainment.”
As a result, postsecondary leaders, policymakers and employers will be able to better understand the critical consumer insights and experiences that shape the many complex issues facing postsecondary education today a comprehensive look at student and graduate experiences and how those experiences shaped their lives.
As for me, I don’t regret my major (journalism) nor my choice of institution, but I wish I had paid more attention in some classes, and I wish I had dropped that business law course when I had the chance.