Statewide Poll of Parents Reveals Dramatically Different Postsecondary Plans For Students Across Race and Income
Parents’ views and experiences highlight the need to ensure equitable access to information and resources for college and career planning
BOSTON (November 16, 2023) – As policymakers across the Commonwealth continue sharpening their focus on college and career readiness, a new poll released today by The Education Trust in Massachusetts finds significant gaps in parental knowledge of appropriate information, resources, and supports needed to help their child make informed decisions about what comes after high school, especially among Latino/a/x and low-income parents.
The statewide poll of Massachusetts parents with children in grades 6-12, conducted by The MassINC Polling Group, finds that over half (57%) of parents say their child is interested in pursuing a bachelor’s degree after graduating from high school. Yet, there is substantially more appetite among parents who are White (59%), Asian (71%), and advanced degree-holders themselves (89%), compared to parents who are Latino/a/x (37%), from low-income backgrounds (26%), and those who have a high school education or less (29%). Latino/a/x parents and parents from low-income backgrounds are more likely to say they expect their child to pursue an associate degree or a non-college-based skills training program. While there are significant gaps in parents’ expectations surrounding their child’s postsecondary pathway, concerns about the cost associated with attending a college or university are high across all racial groups, with a majority concerned about the cost of tuition (68%) and room and board (58%). In addition, parents of low-income backgrounds say the cost of college applications (50%) and books (50%) are also significant barriers.
“As state policymakers work to expand and improve postsecondary pathways for students, we must acknowledge and address the fact that there remain significant gaps in parental expectations and awareness of these pathways, especially among parents who identify as Latino/a/x and low-income,” said Jennie Williamson, state director of The Education Trust in Massachusetts. “Closing these gaps will require a thorough analysis of our present system to identify the barriers families face, coupled with policies and practices that ensure all students and their families have equitable access to high-quality navigational supports, enriching curriculum, and opportunities that allow them to explore and pursue all possible postsecondary pathways.”
A majority of parents (79%) say they see themselves as crucial influencers in helping shape their children’s post-high school pathway, underscoring the importance of equal access to key information. Other top influencers parents identified include teachers (61%), family members (58%), and guidance counselors (51%).
Other Key poll findings include:
- About 3 in 4 parents (76%) say their child’s school is preparing their child to pursue their goals after high school “very well” or “somewhat well”. Yet, only 55% of parents say that, to their knowledge, their child’s school offers Advanced Placement (AP) courses — with Latino/a/x (30%) and Black (36%) parents even less likely to say they are aware of such offerings compared to White parents (60%).
- Latino/a/x parents are also less likely to say their child participated in college prep programs (28%) or classes offering college credit (19%), compared to 38% and 31% overall.
- About 2 in 3 parents (65%) report knowing “a great deal” or “fair amount ” about the college admissions process. However, parents who are advanced degree holders (90%) and high-income parents (74%) are more likely to say they know “a great deal/fair amount” about the process compared to Latino/a/x parents (39%), those from low-income backgrounds (42%) and parents with a high school degree or less (39%).
- A little more than half of parents (56%) report knowing “a great deal” or “fair amount ” about the financial aid process. Yet, parents who are advanced degree-holders (65%) and parents making more than $100K annually (61%) are more likely to report knowing “a great deal/fair amount” compared to Latino/a/x parents (49%) and those from low-income backgrounds (36%).
- Half of parents (50%) are open to considering vocational programs for their child after high school, with 63% saying it would be beneficial. Yet, just over half of parents (57%) say their child’s school does not offer vocational training, and 13% are unsure.
“Prior to the pandemic, Latino students were enrolling in colleges and universities across the Commonwealth in record numbers. But that figure dropped from 55% enrollment in 2018-19 to 39% in 2021-2022,” said Amanda Fernandez, CEO/founder of Latinos for Education.” With the cost of attending colleges and universities continuing to increase dramatically – and this latest poll adding to the growing evidence that parents are concerned about how to pay for tuition, books, and basic needs – it’s hardly a surprise that Latino parents believe obtaining a degree isn’t an option.
“We know what to do, so must we take immediate action to address these devastating trends that, left unchecked, could have enormous consequences for students and their families for generations to come as well as for the future of our state’s economy,” Fernandez continued.
BACKGROUND: 1,018 Massachusetts parents with students in grades 6 through 12, including oversamples of Black, Latino, and Asian parents, were polled (live telephone and online interviews) in English and Spanish from September 14 – October 1, 2023.
This poll is the latest in a series of nine waves of polling going back to mid-2020, made possible by support from The Barr Foundation. The poll results will be highlighted at a virtual event on Thursday, December 14, at 10:00 a.m. and will feature a panel discussion with educational leaders and practitioners on policy solutions to address the intergenerational impacts of postsecondary opportunities. Registration is free, and the event is open to the public.
About The Education Trust: The Education Trust is committed to advancing policies and practices to dismantle the racial and economic barriers embedded in the American education system. Through our research and advocacy, Ed Trust improves equity in education from preschool through college, engages diverse communities dedicated to educational equity and justice, and increases political and public will to build an education system where students will thrive. Learn more at www.EdTrust.org.
About The MassINC Polling Group: The MassINC Polling Group (MPG) is a nonpartisan public opinion research firm serving public, private, and social-sector clients. MPG elevates the public’s voice with cutting-edge methods and rigorous analysis. Based in Boston, MPG serves a nationwide client base. Learn more at massincpolling.com.