The poor economy is ratcheting up anxieties about college affordability at a time when more Americans than ever say a college degree is essential to success, USA Today reports. Those findings, based on a survey of 1,009 Americans in late December, are hardly mind-boggling, but they represent dramatic shifts in public attitude in a short period of time: 55 percent in 2008 said a college degree is necessary, vs. 31 percent in 2000. Forty-three percent in 2008 said there are many ways to succeed without college, vs. 67 percent in 2000. And 67 percent in 2008 said most people who are qualified for college don’t have the opportunity to attend, vs. 47 percent in 2000. "These changes are quick, given what we usually see in public opinion [polling]," says John Immerwahr, a senior research fellow for Public Agenda, a New York-based nonprofit that has been tracking attitudes about higher education since 1993. It conducted this survey with the National Center on Public Policy and Higher Education, a nonprofit in San Jose that promotes access.
National Center president Patrick Callan says the survey points to "a growing sense of unfairness" and anxiety about the economy and American society. "This is not just about higher education, but it’s very important that higher education not be seen as [making] it worse," Callan said…

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