Survey: 45% of Parents Want More Options Than College for Their Children

More than 50% of parents surveyed by Carnegie/Gallup want their child to go to college, but they also want them to have alternative options.

More than 50% of parents surveyed by Carnegie/Gallup want their child to go to college, but they also want them to have alternative options. iStock.com/sengchoy

 

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But 54% of parents polled said they want their kids to enroll in college after high school, according to a Carnegie/Gallup poll.

A recent poll of U.S. parents conducted by Carnegie Corp. and Gallup found that 45% of those surveyed want more postsecondary education options for their children. Even so, 54% said they prefer their kids enroll in a four-year college or university immediately after high school.

Among the parents surveyed, 84% said they were satisfied with the traditional postsecondary options available: four-year and two-year colleges and vocational and technical skills training programs. They also said training for a trade or technical skill (42%) or apprenticeships (40%) provide "excellent preparation" for success in careers as compared with a four-year (34%) or two-year (20%) degree.

In the survey, parents were presented with descriptions of career academies, internships, apprenticeships and service-learning programs, and about half of them—including more than 40% who preferred the bachelor's degree route—agreed or strongly agreed that they are interested in each option for their child.

Two-thirds of respondents surveyed who preferred their child pursue a college degree were bachelor’s degree holders. Democrats were more likely to say they wanted their kids to get a degree (70%) versus Republicans (46%) and independents (48%).

Meanwhile, a higher percentage of Black parents (67%) said they wanted their kids to get a college degree compared with Hispanic (56%) and non-Hispanic white (51%) parents.

The Carnegie/Gallup survey included nearly 3,000 parents. About half of the respondents had middle and high schoolers and the other 50% had children under age 25 not in secondary schools. 

While more than half of parents said they wanted their child to get a degree, college enrollments are falling, especially during the pandemic. According to early spring data from the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center, undergraduate enrollment dropped 4.5% and total enrollment was 2.9% below last spring’s level. Community college enrollment fell 9.5% from last spring.

Also, enrollment of 18 to 24 year olds dropped more than adult enrollment this spring (-5.3% versus -2.6%), the center said.

From 2014 to 2019, overall undergraduate enrollment fell by 1.25 million students, a decline of 5 percentage points. Moreover, undergraduates at state colleges and universities dropped by 425,000—a nearly 2.5 percent decline, according to an analysis by the Center for American Progress, a left-leaning think tank.

Another reason parents and students are seeking college alternatives is because of the soaring cost of obtaining a degree. According to educationdata.org, the average annual cost of college is $35,720, an amount that has tripled in 20 years at a 6.8% annual rate. Taking into account student loan interest and loss of income, the cost of a bachelor’s degree may exceed $400,000, the group said.

There are a growing number of free college programs nationwide—a total of 360, according to College Promise, although most are at community colleges. President Biden promised during his election campaign free community college, Pell Grants for a broader number of students, and canceling student loan debt for certain borrowers, among other things. But those items have not made it to the top of his agenda, where Covid-19 vaccine distribution and pandemic economic relief are taking center stage.

Jean Dimeo is a managing editor at Route Fifty.

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