AP/Viacom survey: young adults say education system doesn't understand them

frustrated college student

Viacom and The Associated Press recently announced the results of their study entitled "Young Adults' Perspectives on American Education 2011," which was based on a combination of peer-to-peer interviews and a telephone poll of more than 1,100 U.S. 18- to 24-year-olds.

The telephone survey results, released Thursday, found that young adults generally do not feel that high schools and colleges are adapting quickly enough to meet their needs – and as a result, many of them are exploring less traditional approaches to education, such as self-directed curricula, internships and self-teaching. In fact, many are taking longer to graduate, because while combining school with work and internships is likely to better prepare them for the workforce, it slows down their matriculation.

Twenty-seven percent of young adults surveyed said the education system has little or no understanding of their values and goals – and 36 percent said the education system is ambivalent to their values and goals. "I am having a hard time finding a school that teaches what I want to learn," said Evan Wardell, a 23-year-old male, part-time student, in a Viacom press release.

More than half of young adults say it's worth spending the money to get "an education that is focused on success in the world" – but 28 percent of those who have attended college say college doesn't adequately prepare you for the workforce, and 31 percent say college doesn't provide enough practical skills to survive as an adult.

Crucially, internships and hands-on experience are considered just as important as textbook knowledge. Viacom quotes Greta Gray, a 21-year-old female, full-time student as saying, "Everyone says you can't get a job without an internship. Even if it didn't lead to a job with those organizations, it's about who you know and what doors they can open for you."

"Overall, young adults want to be a part of the solution to education. They want to be active participants," said Colleen Fahey Rush, Executive Vice President and Chief Research Officer at MTV Networks in a statement issued by MTV parent company, Viacom. "This research echoes many of our other findings on Millennials, specifically their willingness to work within a system to get exactly what they need out of the transaction. They're not waiting for the system to change."

In 2009, Viacom launched Get Schooled in conjunction with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. The organization and its website are aimed at providing young adults with tools and guidance to help them succeed. Viacom announced Thursday that the full study would be published at the Get Schooled website, but as of press time Friday, the qualitative results, including "extensive video profiles of the participants" had not yet been made public at Get Schooled.com.


Viacom, Associated Press, AP-Viacom Survey of Youth on Education, March 2011, http://surveys.ap.org/data/GfK/AP-Viacom%20Youth%20Study%20Topline_money%20and%20young.pdf

Get Schooled, 2013, https://getschooled.com/