BOSTON A majority of Americans say college is unaffordable and not worth its skyrocketing price tag, but graduates say the investment pays off, according to a report published on Sunday.
College graduates say they are happier and more satisfied with their jobs, with 86 percent saying college was a good investment, according to data analyzed by Pew Research Center.
A college degree translates into $20,000 more in earnings per year and remains the goal nearly all parents set for their children, the report said.
"The public has a pretty keen awareness that there is a real world dollar and cents dividend that comes with getting a college degree," said Paul Taylor, an executive vice president at Pew and an author of the report.
Yet despite the potential monetary gains, 75 percent of Americans feel college is unaffordable for most people and 57 percent say it's not a good value.
The Pew report on the cost, value, quality, mission and payoff of a college education was based on surveys of the American public and of college presidents.
College graduates today leave school with roughly $23,000 in student debt, on average, after paying tuition that has roughly tripled since the 1980s, according to Pew.
Yet according to the surveys, a college education lags behind character traits as the key to success.
Young adults need a good work ethic and the ability to get along with people more than a college degree to succeed, the survey of American adults showed.
While the public remains focused largely on the cost of education, university presidents said the quality of education could be in trouble.
A majority of college presidents say high school students are less prepared than they were a decade ago and 52 percent say students are studying less.
The survey of presidents showed just 19 percent believe U.S. higher education is the best in the world, and less than 10 percent believe it will be the front-runner in a decade.
Among presidents of highly selective colleges, 40 percent say U.S. higher education is the best in the world.
Results came from a telephone survey of 2,142 adults and an online survey conducted with the Chronicle of Higher Education among the presidents of 1,055 two- and four-year private, public and for-profit colleges and universities.
(Editing by Barbara Goldberg and Ellen Wulfhorst)