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GREAT EXPECTATIONS: Parents Expect Children to Pursue Postsecondary Education but Don’t Think Schools Provide Enough College Planning Information

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Slightly over a quarter of parents felt that their children’s schools provided “no information at all.”

About nine in ten students in grades six through twelve have parents who expect them to continue their education beyond high school, says the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) in its new report, Parent Expectations and Planning for College. However, the report continues, most parents feel that their children’s schools do not do an adequate job of providing college-planning information.

The report, which is based on the results of the 2003 Parent and Family Involvement in Education Survey, gives insight into parents’ thoughts on the level of education they expect their children to achieve, whether schools provided information to help students plan for postsecondary education, whether someone in the family planned to help pay for it, and whether they felt they had enough information about the costs to start planning.

About 80 percent of the parents of Asian students expected them to finish college, compared to 66 percent of the parents of white students. Sixty-four percent of African American and Hispanic students’ parents had that expectation for their children. Girls were more likely to have parents who expected them to complete college than boys (67 percent compared to 62 percent).

The grades that students bring home also made a difference in parent attitudes.  Eighty-six percent of students who were reported to have earned mostly As were much more likely to have parents who expected them to complete college than those who were reported to have earned mostly Bs (64 percent). Percentages continued to drop off steeply as student grades declined; only 38 percent of parents of students who were getting Cs expected to see their children complete college. Interestingly, however, almost a quarter (24 percent) of the parents whose children were making Ds and Fs still thought they would enter and complete college.

Other factors that the report finds to correlate with high parental expectations include having a two-parent household, income of over $75,000, and having non-native parents or those who primarily do not speak English.

The percentages of ninth through tenth graders (62 percent) and eleventh through twelfth graders (64 percent) who reported having parents who expected them to graduate from college was lower than sixth through eighth graders (68 percent). The report does not speculate about the cause of the lower expectations.

While many parents expected their children to attend college, only about a third believed that their children’s schools did “very well” in providing information to help with postsecondary education planning. Students were more likely to have parents whose beliefs fell in the “very well” category if they were in the eleventh or twelfth grades, attended private school, earned mostly As, or if their parents were non-native-born or non-native-English-speaking. At the other end of the spectrum, slightly over a quarter of parents felt that their children’s schools provided “no information at all.”

Read the full report

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Every Child a Graduate. Every Child Prepared for Life.