Thinking Minnesota Poll: Is a four-year degree necessary to achieve the American Dream?

Do young Minnesotans need a four-year college degree to find success in life? Many high school students say that’s the message they’re getting. But a first-ever Thinking Minnesota Poll makes clear that most Minnesotans disagree.

The poll, which appeared in the Spring 2018 issue of CAE’s quarterly magazine, surveyed 500 Minnesota registered voters. Just 25 percent of respondents preferred advising young people to get a four-year college degree. A remarkable 66 percent said success was more likely to come from “obtaining the knowledge or skills needed to do a specific job in today’s economy.”

Likewise, only one in four of those surveyed believe a four-year college degree “is necessary to achieve the American Dream.” This opinion was consistent across political, geographic and demographic categories.

Those surveyed agreed by a wide margin—88 percent—that apprenticeships and a technical associate’s degree or industry certification are a good value for the money required, with 57 percent taking that view of a four-year college degree.

The Thinking Minnesota Poll confirms that young Minnesotans are well-advised to consider a full range of career paths as they make their post-secondary plans, and consider which educational route is likeliest to get them where they want to go.