Survey: Young Adults Believe in the Value of Higher Education
But college participation still not commonplace for most Black, Hispanic students, compared to Asian, White peers
A new national survey of young adults ages 18 to 25 finds that the vast majority of today’s young adults — be they African American, Hispanic or Latino, Asian American or White — strongly believe in the value of higher education. The survey, “Life After High School: Young People Talk about Their Hopes and Prospects,” was conducted by the nonprofit, nonpartisan opinion research organization Public Agenda. Most of the young adults surveyed say that their parents inspired the goal of going to college and most had a teacher in high school who took a strong personal interest in them and encouraged them to go on to college.
But the study raises serious questions about the shortage of high-school counselors and the economic pressures and trade-offs many young adults face, especially those from minority backgrounds. It also portrays the uncertain, hit-or-miss career path experienced by many young people who enter the work force without a two-year or four-year college or technical degree.
Money plays a big role in decisions about where — or whether — to go to college. Nearly half of young people who don’t continue their education after high school cite lack of money, the wish to earn money or having other responsibilities as reasons why they don’t go. “Life After High School” also shows that while money is not a factor in college selection for most young White Americans (60 percent), it is for most young African Americans and Hispanics. Sixty percent of both groups say that they would have attended a different college if money were not an issue. About half (51 percent) of young Asian Americans say this as well.
The survey raises troubling concerns about the prospects for young workers without college degrees. Compared to those who have a two- or four-year degree, these less-educated workers fell into their jobs more by chance than by choice and far fewer think of their job as a career. Young people with no degree are substantially less likely than those who have a degree to say their parents urged them to go to college.
The study was funded by The College Board, GE Foundation, The George Gund Foundation, the W. K. Kellogg Foundation and KnowledgeWorks Foundation.
According to Public Agenda President Ruth A. Wooden, “Life After High School” shows that most young people have absorbed the ‘go to college, get more education’ message. “We’ve been successful in inspiring a goal. Whether they’re getting the nuts-and-bolts, real-life help and guidance they need to reach that goal, to actually succeed in graduating from college, is another matter.”
Across racial and ethnic lines, young Americans see going to college as a positive thing to do. Three in four (74 percent) young adults agree that college “helps prepare you for the real world.” Seventy-seven percent of African Americans, 81 percent of Hispanics, 85 percent of Asian Americans and 81 percent of Whites said, “people respect you more when they know you’ve graduated from college.”
These findings counter the belief of some that large numbers of minority youth disparage academic success. Only 7 percent of young African Americans and 3 percent of young Hispanics surveyed say that graduating from college is something their circle of friends looks down on.
But the survey confirms what national data show — going to college is still not commonplace for most African Americans and Hispanics. The African Americans and Hispanics (10 percent each) surveyed were less likely to have earned a bachelor degree than their Asian American (28 percent) and White (18 percent) peers.
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