Attendcollege
What Americans say about…

Expecting children to attend college

Most public school parents expect their child to attend college full time, but that may not mean a four-year college.

Most public school parents (61%) expect their child to attend college full time, while 22% expect a mix of part-time study and part-time work, and 7% expect their child to seek a full-time job after high school. These expectations match parents’ own preferences. 

That 61% figure looks quite reasonable: The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported last spring that about six in 10 2016 high school graduates were enrolled full time in colleges and universities in fall of that year.

Web  Pdk  Poll 2017  C7  Table1

But going to college doesn’t necessarily mean attending a four-year college. Fewer than half of public school parents (47%) expect their child to enroll in a four-year college full time. An additional 14% expect their child to enroll in a two-year college or a vocational-technical school, or they’re unsure what they’ll do. 

Further, only one-third of the 22% of public school parents who expect their child to work part time and study part time expect that their child will be enrolled in a four-year college. Another one-third say it’ll be a two-year college, 14% say vocational-technical, and as many are unsure.

A deeper dive

Socioeconomic status is a major factor in expectations for postsecondary education. Seventy-seven percent of college-educated public school parents say their child will attend college full time, compared with 52% without a college degree. Thirty-six percent of parents without a college degree instead expect their child to work and study part time, or work full time vs. just 12% of college-educated parents. 

Means also are a critical component. Expectations for full-time college attendance rises with income, from 47% among public school parents with household incomes less than $50,000 to 66% among those in the $50,000 to $100,000 bracket and 80% in $100,000+ households. By contrast, 41% in the lower-income range expect their child to work and study part time or work full time vs. 23% in the middle bracket and 10% in top-income households. 

Web  Pdk  Poll 2017  C7  Graph1

Expectations also differ by race and ethnicity. Sixty-four percent of white public school parents expect their child to attend college full time, compared with 57% of blacks and 47% of Hispanics. Among Hispanic parents, just as many (48%) expect their child to work and take college classes at the same time or to work full time (38% and 10%, respectively). 

There are other gaps in these expectations. More suburban public school parents anticipate that their child will go to a four-year college full time (57%) than parents who live in urban areas (45%) or rural areas (38%). Public school parents of girls are more likely to say their child will go to college full time than are parents of boys (67% vs. 55%).

The Questions

  1. Q. What do you think your oldest child in public school is most likely to do after high school: Go to college full time, look for a full-time job, look for part-time work and study part time, or something else?

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