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Wallace State Community College Collision Repair head Tim Grace works with a student. (Provided by Wallace State Community College)

Gallup: Americans think education at two-year community colleges about as good as four-year schools

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Americans view the education offered at community colleges as nearly on par with four-year schools, Gallup reported June 23, a vote of confidence both for two-year programs and the caliber of the skilled trade workers they produce.

And if we’re lucky, a bit of foreshadowing that professions like collision repair which face labor shortages will see more high schoolers encouraged to attend two-year colleges instead of going to a university.

Seventy percent of Americans polled June 2-7 saw four-year schools as offering an “excellent” or “good” education, and 66 percent felt that way about community college. A similar four-point spread existed during a poll in October 2013, though the split then was 68 percent/64 percent. The poll had a 3-percentage-point margin of error.

Web-based college programs — not so much. Only 36 percent in June thought they were “excellent” or “good,” up from 34 percent in 2013 but a tough break for digital courses. (We wonder what they thought about YouTube instructional videos.)

“Though it may be harder to gain acceptance into and afford four-year colleges and universities, Americans view the quality of education they provide as no better than that of community colleges,” Gallup’s Justin McCarthy wrote. “However, the public does not rate the quality of online education as positively as that of either two- or four-year colleges.

Also intriguing was how attitudes changed with age and education level when Gallup came calling.

Three-fourths of Americans with grad-student-level education gave positive reviews to four-year schools, compared to only two-thirds who felt that way about community college.

But that spread fell from 9 points to 6 for college graduates and 2 points for high schoolers or younger — and Americans with “some college” actually rated community colleges higher, 74 percent calling it “good” or “excellent” compared to 71 percent who said that about four-year schools, according to Gallup.

However, when you ignore education level and look purely at age, Americans younger than 30 were much more likely to see four-year schools as better. Seventy percent of those 18-29 called colleges/universities “excellent” or “good,” but only 52 percent felt that way about two-year schools. Respondents older than 50 were more favorable to community colleges than four-year schools, particularly Americans age 65 and older.

More information:

“Americans View Quality of Two-Year, Four-Year Colleges Similarly”

Gallup, June 23, 2015