Research by Public Agenda, prepared for the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation

About the Study

One Degree of Separation is based on telephone interviews with a nationally representative sample of 611 26–34 year-olds who have, at a minimum, graduated from high school. Interviews were conducted by Princeton Survey Research International, in English and Spanish, from December 20, 2010, to January 25, 2011. The questionnaire was designed by Public Agenda. Statistical results are weighted to correct known demographic discrepancies. The margin of sampling error for the complete set of weighted data is ±4.5 percentage points. However, it is higher when comparing subgroups or question items that weren’t asked of all respondents. The survey was preceded by focus groups in Fort Wayne, Indiana and Washington, D.C., in September 2010.

Survey respondents in this sample are divided into two groups, “high school graduates” and “college graduates.” High school graduates include respondents who graduated high school (or have a GED) and never pursued any higher education (23 percent of the sample) and respondents who had some higher education experience but left the program without receiving any credential, diploma, or degree (23 percent of the sample). College graduates include those who have a bachelor’s degree (30 percent) and those who have a graduate degree (12 percent), as well as those who have an associate’s degree (7 percent) and anyone who said their highest degree was a technical certificate or other credential (6 percent).

























REPORT 3: Quick Links

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"One Degree of Separation", is the third of a series of Public Agenda surveys designed to examine the problems of higher education and college completion from the perspective of those who know best: young people who've completed a postsecondary degree, and those who haven't. With fewer than half of those who enter a four-year college finishing in six years, and with a debate raging over the value of a college education, the perspective of these young Americans is more important than ever.

In our first report, "With Their Whole Lives Ahead of Them," we asked young people why they didn't finish college, and what they said is surprising. Most of those who don't finish are paying their own way, and the reason they don’t finish is because the juggling act of school, work and family is too much for them. Something's got to give, and that's usually getting a degree.

The second report, "Can I Get a Little Advice Here?", asked young people about the help they got from the high school guidance system. In too many cases, the answer is "not much." With most reporting that they got minimal assistance from over-extended high school guidance counselors, they gave them bad grades for their advice on choosing colleges and careers and obtaining financial aid. Those who got perfunctory counseling are more likely to delay college and make questionable choices.

In One Degree of Separation, we examine how 26- to 34-year-olds, both those who go on to higher education and those who don't, see their economic prospects. Do they feel secure about their future? Do they think college or other postsecondary education has value? Do they feel overburdened by college debt? Can they succeed without a diploma?

REPORT 3: Quick Links

Report 1: With Their Whole Lives Ahead of Them

Report 2: Can I Get A Little Advice Here?

Report 3: One Degree of Separation Test

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More reports on the way: sign up to be notified via e-mail or RSS, or get alerts via Twitter or Facebook.




One Degree of Separation Methodology

About the Study

One Degree of Separation is based on telephone interviews with a nationally representative sample of 611 26–34 year-olds who have, at a minimum, graduated from high school. Interviews were conducted by Princeton Survey Research International, in English and Spanish, from December 20, 2010, to January 25, 2011. The questionnaire was designed by Public Agenda. Statistical results are weighted to correct known demographic discrepancies. The margin of sampling error for the complete set of weighted data is ±4.5 percentage points. However, it is higher when comparing subgroups or question items that weren’t asked of all respondents. The survey was preceded by focus groups in Fort Wayne, Indiana and Washington, D.C., in September 2010.

Survey respondents in this sample are divided into two groups, “high school graduates” and “college graduates.” High school graduates include respondents who graduated high school (or have a GED) and never pursued any higher education (23 percent of the sample) and respondents who had some higher education experience but left the program without receiving any credential, diploma, or degree (23 percent of the sample). College graduates include those who have a bachelor’s degree (30 percent) and those who have a graduate degree (12 percent), as well as those who have an associate’s degree (7 percent) and anyone who said their highest degree was a technical certificate or other credential (6 percent).