Is college worth your money? Poll numbers tell mixed story

Jennifer B. Larson

The unsettling mood of the economy matched with surging tuition costs and a unified need for financial aid reform prompts us to ask the question: Is going to college worth your money?

It seems fewer Americans are beginning to think so, but that hasn't stopped enrollment numbers from rising.

According to a Country Financial survey, the number of Americans who believe college is a good financial investment fell from 80% to 64% in 2009. That's a pretty big drop considering that roughly the same number believed it was a good investment just the year before.

These beliefs about higher education correspond with a change in saving priorities. According to the same survey, 43% of Americans say their own retirement is more important than saving for their child's college, a 2 point increase from last year, while 41% believe saving for their child's college is more important than saving for their retirement, a 6 point drop from last year. Even more are confused: 17% say they are unsure about what's more important: a 4 point increase from last year, according to the survey.

Despite this shift in sentiments, however, scholars still believe that a college education is valuable. Randy Proto of the Huffington Post recently wrote: "A college degree is valuable both to individuals and to society. On that, there is widespread agreement."

"But if people can't afford it, what's the point? That's why we must address this critical issue," Proto continued.