New Study by Gallup and Strada Education Network Reveals More Than Half of U.S. Adults Have Second Thoughts About Their Higher Education Decisions

Education Consumer Pulse is the first-ever daily survey of U.S. adults asking about their postsecondary experiences; Inaugural report offers insights from nearly 90,000 consumers

INDIANAPOLIS — Gallup and Strada Education NetworkSM today released initial findings from the Education Consumer PulseTM, the first-ever daily survey of U.S. adults asking about their experiences in postsecondary education. The inaugural report, “On Second Thought: U.S. Adults Reflect on Their Education Decisions,” reveals that more than 51 percent of U.S. adults would change at least one aspect of their education path — major, school or type of degree — if they had to do it all over again.

“While consumer insights have had a profound impact on improving outcomes in other critical areas of our economy, this kind of research has been largely absent in higher education,” said Bill Hansen, president and CEO of Strada Education Network, a national nonprofit that advances Completion With a Purpose® by enhancing student success from education to employment. “It’s time we listen to consumers to drive the innovation needed in higher education.”

This report is the first of many from the three-year survey designed to generate insights from more than 360,000 current, past and prospective education consumers, ranging from those who have not completed high school to those with postgraduate degrees. The sample will eventually represent the largest collection of education consumer insights in the nation, bringing unprecedented scale and ability to explore how representative subgroups of the population perceive their experiences and the value and return on investments in postsecondary education.

“We are proud to partner with Gallup to empower the voice of consumers in the national conversation about the future of postsecondary education,” Hansen said. “We hope the Education Consumer Pulse will serve as a catalyst for deeper exploration and application of consumer insights to help solve the critical challenges facing our postsecondary education and workforce development systems. Although these are complex issues, we believe by listening to consumers we’ll arrive at better solutions together.”

The first report focuses on how individuals who had previously enrolled in or completed postsecondary education answered three key questions:

If you had to do it all over again, would you still:

  • Pursue the same level of education?
  • Pursue the same area of study?
  • Attend the same institution?

Additional key findings reveal:

  • Thirty-six percent of U.S. adults would choose a different major, 28 percent would attend a different institution, and 12 percent would pursue a different degree type.
  • Those with some college but no degree are the most likely to say they would change at least one of these education decisions.
  • Individuals who complete a vocational, trade or technical program are more positive about their education decisions than are individuals with an associate or bachelor’s degree. Those with postgraduate work or a degree are the least likely to say they would make different education decisions.
  • Given the opportunity to make changes, U.S. adults are most likely to select a different major. This is particularly true of students with some college but no degree and those who complete a bachelor’s degree: Two-fifths of these students would choose a different major.
  • Bachelor’s degree holders who completed their education later in life — those aged 30 or older at the time of graduation — are more positive about their education choices than those who completed at a younger age.
  • STEM graduates at all education levels are the least likely to report they would pursue a different field of study.

Despite the majority’s desire to make different educational choices, more than four out of five U.S. adults who completed a credential or a degree agree or strongly agree they received a high-quality education.

“The fact that millions of Americans report receiving a high-quality education indicates broad satisfaction with the postsecondary experience for most consumers,” said Brandon Busteed, executive director of education and workforce development with Gallup. “However, the fuller picture from this report suggests that consumers need better information and resources to make more informed decisions about their education-to-employment path. We look forward to continuing our work with Strada Education Network, institutions, employers, policymakers and others to further examine the implications of these and future Education Consumer Pulse findings.”

Visit for more information and to download “On Second Thought: U.S. Adults Reflect on Their Education Decisions.” Follow @StradaEducation and @GallupHigherEd for daily updates and join the conversation via #EduPulse.


The Education Consumer Pulse by Gallup and Strada Education Network is a daily survey of approximately 350 U.S. adults, with more than 122,500 interviews annually exploring the extent to which students in the U.S. are pursuing and completing postsecondary education programs that advance their chosen career and life goals. The survey launched in June 2016 and includes a representative sample of Americans aged 18-65 currently living in the 50 states and the District of Columbia.


Strada Education Network, formerly USA Funds, is a new kind of nonprofit organization that takes a fresh approach to improving the college-to-career connection. Through a unique combination of strategic philanthropy, research and insights, and innovative solutions, Strada Education Network advances Completion With a Purpose, building a more purposeful path for America’s students to rewarding careers and fulfilling lives. Learn more at


Gallup delivers analytics and advice to help leaders and organizations solve their most pressing problems. Combining more than 80 years of experience with its global reach, Gallup knows more about the attitudes and behaviors of employees, customers, students and citizens than any other organization in the world.