Parents most concerned about cost of college, ability of grads to gain employment
Inside Higher Ed and Gallup released a study that shows parents are most concerned with financing college in the college decision-making process, and believe getting a good job is the most important reason for pursuing higher education.
Titled “The College Decision-Making Process: A Survey of Parents of 5th through 12th Grade Students,” this study asked parents a series of questions related to the salience of finance, reason, and other factors in the college decision-making process. Participants were asked to rank factors of importance from “not at all likely” to “ very likely” or “strongly disagree” to “strongly agree.”
The study found that 34% of parents would very likely restrict where their child went to college because of financial reasons, such as tuition or cost of living. Another 34% were somewhat likely to do so. Seemingly contradictory, however, 21% of parents said they would be willing to accumulate $50,000 in college loan debt to pay for their child’s school, while only 1% believed that figure was absolutely unreasonable.
38% of parents polled said the main reason they want their child to go to college is to gain employment. The next highest percentage of parents wanted their child to go to college to become a well-rounded person. Only 28% strongly agreed they were confident a liberal arts education could lead their child to a good job, and 31% strongly agreed that there are other ways other than college attendance for their child to find a good job.
Concerns about financial aid and the job market are not new for postgraduates, current college students, and college prospects and their parents. However, the idea of what constitutes a “valuable” degree has shifted for some . Vocational and technical schools have been increasingly recognized and utilized by families as a less-expensive and more career-targeted alternative to the traditional four-year college or university. State governors like Rick Scott of Florida and Rick Perry of Texas are currently working on legislation that would reduce the cost of STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) majors and keep humanities majors’ tuition higher. This initiative is meant to steer college students towards degrees that are in demand in the current job market, but would also neglect skills, like critical reading and writing, learned largely in the humanities and social sciences fields.
Rising tuition costs and the depleted job market are making the decision about which college to attend and what degree is best to pursue much more difficult for students and their parents today. Many families also debate whether their students should even attend college or immediately enter the job market.
Ultimately, each family must assess their personal situation, financial and otherwise, to make these tough choices. In doing so, it is important to remember there are many “right” answers to the question, “Why should you go to college?”