College Decision Day at the start of May can be a time of stress and opportunity for many families. Individuals, alongside their support networks, take decisions that can set their career trajectories and cost thousands of dollars. This year we thought we’d dig a little deeper to explore the hopes and aspirations of one important, but sometimes overlooked group: parents.
Our research reveals that 69% of parents would support their child’s decision to enter the working world straight after high school. This comes amid increasing debate around the value of college degrees, and federal discussions around student loan debt repayment. We surveyed over 1,000 US parents to gain key insights into what they really think about their child’s post high school education.
Child taking on debt is biggest cause of stress for parents
Debt and the cost of college was frequently cited as a leading cause of stress throughout the decision making process: the majority of parents (52%) cited financial stress over paying for post-high school education as an obstacle when considering post-graduate pathways. A total of 82% of parents said paying for college tuition, or taking on debt to do so, was a cause of stress.
Only 47% of parents think student loans are worth the debt their children acquire, with younger generations of parents questioning the value of college more than older generations. 71% of parents aged 25-34 and 57% of parents aged 55-64 would support their child pursuing an alternative path to college.
Well paid career most important to parents
When parents consider the aspirations they have for their child in the future, economic security and career opportunities top the list. When asked what life goals they felt were most important for their children five years after graduating high school, the majority wanted their child to be in a “well-paying career” (56%). This ranked above a stable relationship (13%), owning their own home (12%), an Ivy League degree (7%), and having a strong group of friends (8%).
“We know that parents are the number one influence over what a high school graduate is likely to go on to do with their lives. We also now know that they care far more about what their child goes on to be able to achieve, rather than simply whether or not they go to college.” said Euan Blair, Founder and CEO of Multiverse. He continued: “In the end most parents want their children to be in a well-paid career that provides them with economic security. As we search for more equitable and successful routes into great careers, this is yet more evidence that talent won’t just be found on college campuses, but increasingly through options like professional apprenticeships.”
Of the parents who said they would support the decision not to go to college, 38% thought their child could get the skills they need on the job and 34% thought their child should be financially independent as soon as possible.
Career potential and skills most important factor in decision making
Of the parents we surveyed, career potential and skill preparation were the most important factors in making this decision. 78% said they had heard about apprenticeships as a post-high school option prior to taking the survey, and a quarter had considered it as an option this year - far above the number of apprenticeships that are currently available.