National Poll: How Well Do Americans Really Know Today’s Students?

How well do we Americans really know today’s students? The answer will surprise you.

Last week, we released the results of a national opinion poll and a special edition of Education Insider looking at just how well the general public and policymakers understand the shifting demographics of higher education. Overall, while the public is generally aware of some demographic changes, some outdated assumptions about conventional college students—funded by mom and dad and living in dorms—remain. The practical realities many students face, like commuting or balancing school and parenting, are not well known by many in the general public. For example:

  • 62% of respondents believe most first-year students live on campus—but this is the experience of only about 13% of first-year students.
  • Only 37% of respondents correctly stated that most of today’s college students don’t depend on parents or family for financial assistance.
  • And only 47% of people correctly identified that Hispanic and African American college students are less likely to complete their degree than their white peers.

Meanwhile, our Education Insider research study found that those working on education policy issues at the federal level were significantly more likely than the American public to correctly identify characteristics of today’s students.  

So while policymakers may not agree on the solutions, they at least agree on the challenges today’s students face. We believe this research adds new urgency to the case for updating federal policies to better support the needs today’s students.

We invite you to learn more and look forward to continuing this conversation.

View the full results of the survey here. For more, visit to get policy solutions and learn more about the experiences of today’s students.