BY CONNIE CASS, The Associated Press

No matter how many subjects they’re acing, most college students these days find economics a grind. Tricky financial calculations influence everything from what school they attend and what major they choose to how quickly they finish their degrees — or whether they graduate at all.

Money problems, not bad grades, are the reason cited by most college students who have considered dropping out, an Associated Press-Viacom poll finds.

Almost six in 10 students rely on loans to help with college costs, and nearly half who do say they’re uncomfortable with the debt. A majority of students at four-year colleges say they routinely feel at least a little worried about having enough money to make it through the week, according to the poll, conducted in partnership with Stanford University.

Scrimping has long been part of the college experience, of course, but tough times in the real world mean even tighter money on campus.

Recession-battered parents have less money to spend on their kids’ tuition. Jobs that used to be waiting upon graduation aren’t there anymore — consumed by the nation’s 8.8 percent unemployment rate. And college prices keep going up, as states struggle with budget deficits. Average tuition, room and board rose to about $16,000 at in-state public schools this year and $37,000 at private schools.

Most college students — 84 percent — need more than one source of cash to keep up, the poll of people ages 18 to 24 found.

About two-thirds say they work part-time or more to help pay for college. That’s supplemented by another popular source of funds: Mom and Dad. Six in 10 get help from parents. The same number rely on scholarships for part of the bill.

“For a while, I couldn’t find a job, and it was like, ‘How am I going to eat? And how am I going to get to school if I don’t have gas?’” said Allyson Bure, 20, a nursing student who works two part-time jobs, as a clerk at a Fashion Bug store and as a hotel housekeeper.

Like 57 percent of college students surveyed, Bure depends on student loans. Including debt she racked up at another school, she expects to owe about $52,000 by the time she finishes her associate’s degree at Trocaire College in East Aurora, N.Y. Then she hopes to transfer to a university.

Many students are uneasy about borrowing, with good reason. The U.S. Education Department says 7 percent of borrowers default within two years of beginning repayment on loans that can stretch for a decade or more. Average student loan debt tops $23,000.

Bure’s confident that she’ll earn enough to pay off her loans. She’s studying to become a nurse anesthetist, a job that can pay well over $100,000 per year. “I’ll be secure,” she predicts.

Despite the rising costs, 85 percent of students and recent grads say college is worth the time and money. In overwhelming numbers, they express satisfaction with the education they’ve received. And they have wide expectations for that education: Most say it’s very or extremely important that colleges broaden students’ knowledge and expand their minds, help them gain life skills, expose them to new experiences and train them for a career.

Nine out of 10 expect to find a job in their field. And for most, that’s the bottom line. Fifty-five percent say an education that focuses on success in the working world is more valuable than one focused on general knowledge and critical thinking.

With that pragmatic attitude, many treat education like a commodity to be shaped to fit their needs and budgets.

Most college students say cost was a big factor in determining where they applied and which school they ended up attending. A hefty majority — 86 percent — say it’s worthwhile to switch programs if you’re not getting exactly what you want from a school. A third said they added another major to increase their options after graduation.

Three-fourths say it’s more important to take the time to get exactly what they want from their education than to finish within the traditional four years, and a quarter who have finished took extra time.

On the other hand, lots of students are racing to the finish in order to save money.

About four in 10 college students hope to graduate in less than four years. To get a jump start, 58 percent of students took college-credit courses in high school. And about half earned credits at a community college before moving on to a more expensive bachelor’s degree program.

That’s what Falma Habbaba is doing. Once she’s finished two years at Cuyamaca College, she plans to transfer to nearby San Diego State University. Half of the college students surveyed, including Habbaba, hope to continue their educations beyond a four-year degree. In her case, it’s law school that beckons.

Habbaba, 18, has been relying on grants and a part-time job as a restaurant hostess to pay her way, and she worries about finding enough money to finish her schooling. But she’s optimistic that she’ll achieve career happiness. So are 94 percent of the college students surveyed.

For half of college students, money was a big factor in choosing what career to pursue. But more than one-fourth say that didn’t enter into their thinking at all.

“If you do what you love, you’ll be all right in life,” Habbaba said.

The AP-Viacom telephone survey of 1,104 adults ages 18 to 24 was conducted Feb. 18 to March 6 by GfK Roper Public Affairs & Corporate Communications. The margin of sampling error is plus or minus 3.5 percentage points.

Stanford University’s participation in this project was made possible by a grant from The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

Associated Press writer Stacy A. Anderson, AP Polling Director Trevor Tompson, Deputy Director of Polling Jennifer Agiesta and AP News Survey Specialist Dennis Junius contributed to this report.

How the poll was conducted

The Associated Press-Viacom Survey of Youth on Education by Stanford University was conducted by GfK Roper Public Affairs & Corporate Communications from Feb. 18 to March 6. It is based on landline and cell phone interviews with a nationally representative random sample of 1,104 adults between 18 and 24 years old. Interviews were conducted with 603 respondents on landline telephones and 501 on cellular phones.

The sample included 253 African-Americans, 100 of whom were an oversample to have a sufficient number to analyze their responses as a group. Results were then weighted so that African-Americans reflected their correct proportion within the total sample.

Digits in the phone numbers dialed were generated randomly to reach households with unlisted and listed landline and cellphone numbers.

Interviews were conducted in both English and Spanish.

As is done routinely in surveys, results were weighted, or adjusted, to ensure that responses accurately reflect the population’s makeup by factors such as age, sex, education and race. In addition, the weighting took into account patterns of phone use — landline only, cell only and both types — by region.

For the African-American sample, the portion from the core survey and the oversample were weighted to reflect the African-American 18- to 24-year-old population on Hispanic ethnicity, educational attainment, region and age within sex.

No more than one time in 20 should chance variations in the sample cause the results to vary by more than plus or minus 3.5 percentage points from the answers that would be obtained if all 18- to 24-year-olds in the U.S. were polled.

There are other sources of potential error in polls, including the wording and order of questions.

The questions and results are available at


AP-GfK Poll: Clinton appears on cusp of commanding victory


NEW YORK (AP) — Hillary Clinton appears on the cusp of a potentially commanding victory over Donald Trump, fueled by solid Democratic turnout in early voting, massive operational advantages and increasing enthusiasm among her supporters.

A new Associated Press-GfK poll released Wednesday finds the Democratic nominee has grabbed significant advantages over her Republican rival with just 12 days left before Election Day. Among them: consolidating the support of her party and even winning some Republicans.

“I’m going to pick Hillary at the top and pick Republican straight down the line,” said poll respondent William Goldstein, a 71-year-old from Long Island, New York, who voted for Mitt Romney in 2012. “I can’t vote for Trump.”

Overall, the poll shows Clinton leading Trump nationally by a staggering 14 percentage points among likely voters, 51-37. While that is one of her largest margins among recent national surveys, most show the former secretary of state with a substantial national lead over the billionaire businessman.

The AP-GfK poll finds that Clinton has secured the support of 90 percent of likely Democratic voters, and also has the backing of 15 percent of more moderate Republicans. Just 79 percent of all Republicans surveyed say they are voting for their party’s nominee.

With voting already underway in 37 states, Trump’s opportunities to overtake Clinton are quickly evaporating — and voters appear to know it. The AP-GfK poll found that 74 percent of likely voters believe Clinton will win, up from 63 percent in September.

Troubles with President Barack Obama’s signature health care law have given Trump a late opening to warn voters against putting another Democrat in the White House. But even Republicans question whether the rising cost of insurance premiums is enough to overcome the damage the businessman has done to his standing with women and minorities.

“Donald Trump has spent his entire campaign running against the groups he needs to expand his coalition,” said Whit Ayres, a Republican pollster who advised Florida Sen. Marco Rubio’s failed presidential campaign. Ayres called Trump’s campaign “strategically mindless.”

Even if Clinton’s support plummets in the contest’s closing days, or she’s unable to motivate strong turnout in her favor, it’s not clear that Trump could marshal the resources to take advantage and collect enough states to win the 270 electoral votes needed to claim the White House.

Clinton’s team has overwhelmed Trump’s campaign in its effort to turn out voters.

An Associated Press review of campaign finance filings finds that her campaign, the Democratic National Committee and Democratic parties in 12 states have more than three times as many paid employees as Trump’s campaign and the main Republican organizations supporting him. Clinton and Democrats had about 4,900 people on payroll in September, while Trump and Republicans had about 1,500.

Both sides benefit from legions of volunteers knocking on doors and making phone calls to voters, as well as outside forces such as unions and super PACs pitching in on voter turnout operations. But key Republican groups such as the ones funded by the conservative billionaire Koch brothers are sitting out the presidential race because of their distaste for Trump, further extending Clinton’s likely advantage at getting out the vote.

The strength of the Democratic turnout effort appears to be paying dividends in states where voting is underway. Nationwide, more than 12 million voters have already cast ballots, according to data compiled by the AP, a pace far quicker than 2012.

In North Carolina, a must-win state for Trump, Democrats lead Republicans in early ballots, 47 percent to 29 percent. The Democrats hold an advantage even though turnout among blacks, a crucial voting bloc for Clinton in the state, is down compared to this point in 2012. Strategists in both parties attribute the lower black turnout in part to an early reduction in polling stations, though more sites are to open in the days leading up to Nov. 8.

In Florida, a perennial battleground, Democrats have drawn even to Republicans in votes cast, reaching that milestone faster than in 2012. Traditionally, Republicans do well initially with mail-in ballots. But Democrats were able to keep it close, putting Clinton in position to run up the score during in-person voting.

Clinton also appears to hold an edge in Nevada and Colorado based on early returns. David Flaherty, a Republican pollster based in Colorado, said the data signal “a Democrat wave in the making.”

Buoyed by support from white voters, Trump looks strong in Ohio, Iowa and Georgia, a Republican state where Clinton is trying to make inroads. But wins in those states would still leave him well short of the required 270 Electoral College votes.

Trump’s top advisers have conceded in recent days the businessman is trailing Clinton. But they point to his large rallies and enthusiastic supporters as an indication he could be poised for an upset. Clinton draws smaller crowds to her events and has been perceived by some voters a lesser of two evils.

“We have a couple of different paths to get to 270 and we’re actively pursuing them,” Kellyanne Conway, Trump’s campaign manager, told MSNBC on Monday.

The AP-GfK poll suggests Clinton’s advantage is about more than just voter dislike for Trump. Clinton supporters are more likely than his backers to list their candidate’s leadership, qualifications for the presidency and positions on issues as major factors in their support.

Although voters are still more likely to have an unfavorable than a favorable view of Clinton, her ratings have improved slightly in the past month. Forty-six percent of likely voters now say they have a favorable view of the former secretary of state, up from 42 percent in September. Just 34 percent of all likely voters have a favorable view of Trump.

Trump’s unpopularity has opened surprising opportunities for Clinton as the White House race barrels toward its finish. Her campaign is actively competing for Arizona, a state that has voted for the Democrat in only one presidential race since 1952, and she is also spending money in Georgia, a reliably Republican state over the past two decades.

Both states have been on Democrats’ wish lists in recent years given their increasingly favorable demographics, though the party had little expectation they might flip this year. Hispanics are a growing share of the Arizona electorate, while Georgia is on its way to becoming a majority-minority state.

The real electoral map surprise this year is Utah, one of the most conservative states in the country. Utah’s heavily Mormon population has turned its back on Trump, providing an opening for third-party candidate and Utah native Evan McMullin to carry the state. Stripping Trump of six Electoral College votes Republicans have never had to worry about would further narrow his already slim path to victory.

With so much appearing to lean in their favor heading into Election Day, the Clinton campaign’s biggest concern is that some supporters take victory for granted and don’t show up to vote.

“Donald Trump said he could still win, and he could if our people get complacent,” Clinton communications director Jennifer Palmieri said.


The AP-GfK Poll of 1,546 adults, including 1,212 likely voters, was conducted online Oct. 20-24, using a sample drawn from GfK’s probability-based KnowledgePanel, which is designed to be representative of the U.S. population. The margin of sampling error for all respondents is plus or minus 2.75 percentage points, and for likely voters is plus or minus 3.1 percentage points.

Respondents were first selected randomly using telephone or mail survey methods and later interviewed online. People selected for KnowledgePanel who didn’t have access to the internet were provided access for free.



Poll results:


Associated Press writers Hope Yen, Nicholas Riccardi, Thomas Beaumont and Chad Day contributed to this report.


Follow Julie Pace and Emily Swanson on Twitter at: and


AP-GfK poll: Third party backers a wild card in 2016 race


WASHINGTON (AP) — Most people who are drawn to third party candidates in the presidential election aren’t sold on their choice, making these voters wild cards in an already unpredictable contest.

A shift in their support toward either of the major party nominees — away from Libertarian Gary Johnson, Jill Stein of the Green Party or another third party candidate — could drastically change the shape of the race.

A recent Associated Press-GfK poll found that nearly 7 in 10 third-party supporters say they could still change their minds.

They are about evenly split between Democrat Hillary Clinton and Republican Donald Trump if forced to choose between just those two. Nearly one-third refused to pick or said they would just not vote if it came down to that.

Margaret Bonnem, a stay-at-home mother in Colliersville, Tennessee, had previously supported Stein. But now she says she’ll vote for Clinton because she realizes that “a third party candidate can’t really do anything but pull votes away” from the major parties.

“I can’t vote for Trump, and I don’t want him to benefit from me voting for someone else,” said Bonnem, 54. “So I’ll end up voting for someone I don’t fully trust.”

The poll, conducted before last Monday night’s first presidential debate, also shows signs that many third party backers would rather vote for no one than throw their support either to Trump or Clinton.

Among likely voters in the AP-GfK poll saying they’ll support a third party candidate, 7 in 10 say they have an unfavorable opinion of both the Democratic and Republican nominees.

Altogether, the poll found 9 percent of likely voters supported Johnson, 2 percent Stein, and 2 percent “another candidate.”

Among third-party supporters, 72 percent say Clinton’s not at all honest, and 64 percent say she’s at least somewhat corrupt. Sixty-eight percent say Trump is not at all compassionate and 59 percent think he’s at least somewhat racist.

Overall, 8 in 10 say they have an unfavorable opinion of each of the major party nominees. For 6 in 10, that opinion is very unfavorable.

Patrick Cannon, 63, from Minneapolis, says he’ll vote for Johnson though he knows Johnson can’t win.

“I guess my vote is in the nature of a protest vote,” said Cannon, who retired from the graphics industry. “I just can’t bring myself to vote for the other two.”

These third party voters don’t fit into easy political boxes.

They’re disproportionately young: 26 percent of them are under age 30, compared with just 15 percent of likely voters overall. More than half of them self-identify as independents, though when asked which way they lean, they’re about evenly split between the two parties.

They’re deeply dissatisfied with the direction of the country. Eight-two percent say the country is headed in the wrong direction, far closer to the percentage for Trump supporters (94 percent) than Clinton supporters (45 percent). Six in 10 disapprove of the job Barack Obama is doing as president.

Despite their dissatisfaction with the direction of the country, 74 percent of them say they would be afraid if Trump is elected president, compared with 56 percent who say that of Clinton. They’re also slightly more likely to say they would be angry about electing Trump than put Clinton in the White House, 54 percent to 45 percent.

Whether the Democrat or the Republican can win them over lends potential volatility to the race. In the AP-GfK poll, 69 percent of them said they could still change their minds about whom to support, while more than 85 percent of both Trump and Clinton supporters said their minds were made up.

Jim Stab, a retired captain in the Navy, is planning to vote for Johnson but says his “leaning is weak.”

“Not voting is a waste,” said Staub, 75, of Laguna Niguel, California. “If I won’t for Johnson, I will for one of them,” meaning Clinton or Trump.

On average, surveys have suggested Clinton may perform slightly better when voters are forced to choose between only Trump and her.

But first, they’d need to actually vote. And there are reasons to think many of them wouldn’t come out to hold their noses for their least-disliked candidate.

While 6 in 10 Trump and Clinton supporters in the AP-GfK poll say they always vote, just 45 percent of third party voters say the same. In fact, more than a quarter straight up say they would not vote if they had to choose between Trump and Clinton.


The AP-GfK Poll of 1,694 adults, including 160 likely voters who said they’ll vote for a third party candidate, was conducted online Sept. 15-19, using a sample drawn from GfK’s probability-based KnowledgePanel, which is designed to be representative of the U.S. population. The margin of sampling error for all respondents is plus or minus 2.5 percentage points, and for third party voters is plus or minus 8.2 percentage points.

Respondents were first selected randomly using telephone or mail survey methods and later interviewed online. People selected for KnowledgePanel who didn’t have access to the internet were provided access for free.


Lemire reported from New York.



Poll results:


Follow AP Polling Editor Emily Swanson on Twitter at and Jonathan Lemire at