High School Grads Want Job Skills Next, Survey Shows

by James Paterson

Dive Brief:

  • A new report from the College Savings Foundation (CSF) finds that 81% of high school students in its survey seek skills training, and an increasing number are considering technical schools and community colleges.
  • The survey showed the number of students intending to go to community college increased 9% from 2015 to 2018. About 53% plan to attend a traditional four-year college and 36% a community college or vocational school, the report said.
  • It also noted that the cost of college is important in decision making. About 65% of those surveyed said that expense affected whether they attend college at all, and 52% said that costs mattered in deciding on whether to attend college part time or full time.

Dive Insight:

That report comes at a time when other research is showing, however, that declining community college enrollment may continue, according to Inside Higher Education, which quotes a researcher as saying that two-year schools have a “major problem coming very fast.” It refers to data from the Western Interstate Commission for Higher Education, which projects the number of high school graduates will remain flat with a slight increase until 2025 when it will drop from about 3.5 million graduates per year to about 3 million.

Meanwhile, the report said, the number of adult learners — a segment more likely to attend community college — may decrease because historically they go back to work if the economy improves. It also suggested a now lower threshold for Pell Grant recipients might make it harder for some who would go to two-year schools to attend.

Bright spots for community college Hispanic enrollment, which doubled in 2016, according to the American Association of Community Colleges, along with the rising number of high school students in dual-enrollment programs.

Two recent reports from Pearson recommend that higher education provides the type of “demand driven” training the students surveyed in the CSF report say they want, and the Council on Foreign Relations in a new report, shows that higher education needs “better targeted” instruction based on employer needs.

The CSF survey also asked about the reason for choosing community college, and 75% of the students surveyed said costs are a factor in deciding which school to attend. A long-term study of eight million students showed that 71% of millennial believe that making money is one of the most important reasons to enroll in college. (They had to choose from outcomes like “get a better job,” “make more money,” “learn more about things that interest me” and “prepare myself for graduate or professional school.”). About 55% of baby boomers felt that way.

Meanwhile, two researchers have suggested that some surveys of students need to provide more options and when they have few choices, the data may limit a college’s understanding of student priorities.