Is College for Everyone? Just Over Half of Students Say Yes

In a BestColleges survey, the majority of students said that college is for everyone regardless of background, identity, or what they want to accomplish in life.

Published September 15, 2022

Edited by Reece Johnson
Is College for Everyone? Just Over Half of Students Say Yes
Survey Reports
Photo by Sean De Burca / The Image Bank / Getty Images

  • Over half of students believe college is for everyone, regardless of a student's future goals and background.
  • White students are more likely than BIPOC students to say that college is for everyone, regardless of class or economic circumstances.
  • Gen Z is more skeptical than millennials that college is for everyone, especially when it comes to class and future goals.

In a new BestColleges survey of 1,000 current and prospective undergraduate and graduate students, the majority (56%) believe that college is for everyone regardless of what they want to do or accomplish in life. Just under a quarter of students (22%) disagree.

With alternative education options becoming more popular in recent years, more students may be wondering if the traditional college path is for them.

In addition, the financial burden of college and inequitable admissions practices may pose barriers to access for some groups, leading some to question whether college is equally inclusive for all.

However, students overall agree that college is for everyone regardless of their race, class, gender, or sexual orientation.

College Is for Everyone, Regardless of Background

When prompted with whether college is everyone regardless of certain demographics, the majority of respondents still believe that college is for everyone.

However, at least 1 in 10 respondents disagreed that college was for everyone. These numbers grew when the race/ethnicity of the respondents were factored in.

White Students More Likely to Say College Is for Everyone

White students are significantly more likely than BIPOC students to say college is for everyone, regardless of their class or economic background (69% vs. 59%).

A report from the Institute of Higher Education Policy (IHEP) from June 2021 found that specific admissions practices at U.S. colleges and universities — such as early admission and legacy admission — reduced opportunities for students from low-income backgrounds. Many of these students are also from racial and ethnic groups that have been historically underrepresented in higher education.

Students are well aware of the barriers to college access that they may face. A BestColleges survey from June 2022 found that about a third of current high school students (30%) think the college admissions process is unfair. And the same number (30%) are concerned that application and entrance exam fees will impact their ability to be accepted to and attend a college.

LGBTQ+ Students More Likely to Say College Is for Everyone

Compared to straight students, LGBTQ+ students are more likely to say college is for everyone regardless of what they want to do or accomplish in life (61% vs. 55%) and regardless of class or economic background (63% vs. 71%).

They are also more likely than straight students to say that college is for everyone regardless of gender identity or sexual orientation (68% vs. 75%).

Gen Z Less Sure That College Is for Everyone

BIPOC students aren't the only ones in doubt that college is for students from all economic backgrounds. Generation Z is more skeptical than older generations that college is for everyone, particularly when it comes to class and future goals.

Compared to millennials, Generation Z is significantly less likely to say college is for everyone, regardless of their class or economic background. They are also less likely to say they believe college is for everyone, regardless of what they want to do or accomplish in life.

With the recent rise in nondegree pathways and the burden of increased tuition costs, today's students may be less inclined than previous generations to think of college as a "one-size-fits-all" education option.

Methodology

The survey was conducted from July 7-13, 2022. Student respondents were fielded by Lucid LLC. Survey participants included 1,000 respondents nationwide who were currently enrolled in or planning to enroll in an undergraduate or graduate degree program at a college or university in the next 12 months. Respondents were 16-65 years of age and currently pursuing or planning to pursue an associate, bachelor's, master's, doctoral, or professional degree. The respondents for the survey were screened by various quality checks, including systems like Relevant ID, and responses were manually reviewed to ensure consistency and accuracy.