Many Americans Lack Confidence in the Career Value of Postsecondary Education and Their Own Ability to Succeed as Learners

New results from the Strada Center for Consumer Insights find that Americans’ decisions about pursuing postsecondary education are heavily influenced by career value, logistics, and self-confidence.

INDIANAPOLIS — Strada Education Network, a national social impact organization dedicated to forging pathways between education and employment, has released a new analysis of its weekly, nationally representative Public Viewpoint survey tracking the impact of the global pandemic on Americans’ lives, work, and education. This week’s analysis integrates additional data from the spring 2020 administration of the Strada-Gallup Education Consumer Survey, which is designed to better understand what motivates Americans to pursue education and training.

Taken together, the two surveys show that when it comes to education and training, one factor dominates for most American adults: career value. Almost two thirds (63 percent) of adults with postsecondary degrees or credentials in the Strada-Gallup Education Consumer Survey say that career—gaining the skills to be successful at work, to qualify for good jobs, and to advance—was an extremely important factor in deciding whether to pursue their highest level of education.

On the flip side, a lack of clear career value is the number one reason adults gave for not pursuing additional education. Among the adults who report they are not likely to seek additional education,  42 percent cite the absence of any career value as the main reason they are not interested. No other reason is close, with health or disability (19 percent) and time commitment (13 percent) coming a distant second and third.

“Three in five Americans consistently identify work outcomes as their main reason for pursuing education and training after high school. At the same time, however, large numbers question whether education and training will lead to career success, and half of adults question their own ability to succeed in postsecondary education,” said Dave Clayton, Senior Vice President at the Strada Center for Consumer Insights. “Educators, policymakers, and funders need to tackle Americans’ twin crises of confidence—both in the career value of education and in their ability to succeed. The economic fallout from the pandemic only makes this more urgent.”

Half of adults in the Public Viewpoint survey say that self-doubt would be a major impediment to their enrolling in postsecondary education, either because they fear they won’t be successful, have been out of school for too long, or a combination of the two. This lack of confidence ranks as the No. 2 challenge to enrollment, above cost (48 percent) and second only to logistics (55 percent). Among those who see logistics as a major barrier to pursuing additional education, time away from work, balancing school and work, and course availability rank as the top three concerns.

Additional findings from the Public Viewpoint survey and the Strada-Gallup survey include:

  • Among adults without postsecondary degrees or credentials, 42 percent were very or extremely interested in more education when they left high school. (Strada-Gallup)
  • But only 36 percent of those without credentials say that they had a good understanding of their options for paying for education when they left high school. (Strada-Gallup)
  • Reliable internet access remains a challenge to pursuing education, with urban residents (39 percent), Latinos (39 percent), and Black Americans (36 percent) more likely to report challenges than suburban, rural, or white Americans.


About Strada-Gallup Spring 2020 Education Consumer Survey

The Spring 2020 Strada-Gallup Education Consumer Survey is a survey of more than 10,000 U.S. adults fielded from March 30–May 28, 2020, that strives to give a voice to higher education consumers. The survey measures the opinions, experiences and expectations of prospective, current and former students. This survey builds on previous Strada-Gallup surveys, which have collected data from over 350,000 Amercians between 2016-2019.

About Public Viewpoint

To date, over 13,000 Americans have been surveyed for the Public Viewpoint. The Public Viewpoint is produced by Strada Education Network’s Center for Consumer Insights, a research team that studies the experiences and perceptions of American adults in order to inform the development of a more consumer-centered learning ecosystem. The Center for Consumer Insights provides the nation’s largest education consumer database, which includes more than 350,000 completed surveys about the education and work experiences of American adults. View the full Public Viewpoint findings at:

About Strada Education Network

Strada Education Network is a pioneering social impact organization dedicated to improving lives by forging clearer and more purposeful pathways between education and employment. Our approach combines innovative research, thought leadership, strategic philanthropy, mission-aligned investments and a network of affiliate organizations. Together, we work to create a new education-to-employment system that better serves the millions of Americans seeking to complete postsecondary education and training, gain clear value from those experiences, and build meaningful careers. Learn more at