Do High School Students Think They Will Go to College?

What the data show about their attitudes and those of their parents.

July 8, 2019
 
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When push comes to shove, will students go to college?

The Education Department shares the views of colleges that students are likelier to enroll at bachelor's-awarding institutions and to earn the bachelor's degrees awarded there if they aspire to finish.

For that reason, the High School Longitudinal Study of 2009 tracked parents and high school students in that class. The base year collection included questions for both parents and students about their highest expected attainment. The base year was 2009, and updates were collected in 2012 and 2016.

Among the findings of parents:

  • The percentage of parents who expected their child’s highest level of education to be a high school diploma or GED stayed constant at 8 percent from 2009 to 2012.
  • The percentage of parents who expected their child’s highest level of education to be an occupational certificate or associate’s degree rose from 8 percent in 2009 to 14 percent in 2012.
  • In both years, about 30 percent of parents expected their child’s highest level of education to be a bachelor’s degree and about 20 percent expected it to be a master’s degree.
  • Fewer parents expected their child to complete a professional degree in 2012 (16 percent) than in 2009 (22 percent).

Among the findings of students:

  • The 15 percent of students in 2009 who expected their highest level of education to be a high school diploma or GED was higher than the 11 percent in 2012 and the 10 percent in 2016.
  • The proportion of students expecting to complete a postsecondary degree of any type was higher in 2012 (about 78 percent) and in 2016 (about 76 percent) than it was in 2009 (about 64 percent).
  • The 16 percent of students in 2012 and the 16 percent of students in 2016 who expected their highest level of education to be an occupational certificate or associate’s degree were each higher than the 7 percent in 2009.
  • The 28 percent of students in 2012 and the 30 percent of students in 2016 who expected their highest level of education to be a bachelor’s degree were each higher than the 18 percent in 2009.
  • Over time, fewer students expected to earn a professional degree, a trend which matched parents’ expectations. In 2009, 19 percent of students expected to complete a professional degree. This figure decreased to 13 percent in 2012 and to 10 percent in 2016.
  • Students were given the option to indicate that they didn't know how far they would get in school. The percentage of students who didn’t know the highest level of education they expected to complete dropped from 21 percent in 2009 to 10 percent in 2012, then rose again slightly to 13 percent in 2016.

The percentage of students enrolling in college in the fall immediately following high school completion was 69.8 percent in 2016.

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