How much do Americans value a degree?

A graduation ceremony at the University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa in 2011.

Many Americans question the cost and value of a college education today, according to a new USA TODAY/Public Agenda Hidden Common Ground poll. And of the multiple higher education options available, many see a two-year community college as a more reasonable investment, according to the poll. 

In terms of a sheer cost comparison, it’s hard to argue with these data.

The cost of a bachelor’s degree program is generally much greater than that of an associate’s degree or certificate program. In fact, it costs nearly three times as much on average to attend one year at an in-state four-year college, than it does to attend a local community college for the same amount of time, according to data from a College Board report

And students often leave four-year colleges with crippling amounts of debt. On average, public college students walk away with about $30,000 worth of loans to pay back, according to the Education Data Initiative. 

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