Annual survey reveals intergenerational similarities in their needs and expectations for higher education
Washington, DC, October 6 – U.S. parents across the country have a new vision of higher education for both their children and themselves – more career-oriented, affordable and targeted to their evolving employment needs. In the 16th annual State of Higher Ed Savings survey, the College Savings Foundation (CSF) took an intergenerational approach, asking 1,000 parents across the country about their children’s and their own plans for higher education, what higher education looks like for them today, and how they expect to pay for it.
In addition to gleaning the perspectives of parents on these topics overall, the survey also honed in on three age groups. It asked parents about the upcoming plans of their children in high school, the higher education experiences of their 18-25-year-olds, and their own needs for their current and prospective careers. Key themes that emerged were that higher education is an ongoing need that also encompasses career preparedness and training throughout a person’s life.
“We are starting to see people seek education at all different ages and levels; and what we found among parents is that they are focused on career choices driving their education decisions for their children and themselves,” said CSF Chair Vivian Tsai.
Key findings on how parents view higher education:
Higher Ed is a lifelong experience:
Career and vocational schools are as important as traditional 4-year college:
Saving, including in 529 plans, is still a foundational way to fund Higher Ed:
“As the higher education landscape changes, 529s can be used by all American families to pay for whatever path they choose,” Tsai added.
Paying and borrowing for higher education
Beyond savings, most parents (70%) are looking to their children to help, with those funds coming from the child’s job (43%), scholarships/grants/fellowships (33%), loans (12%), and savings (10%). Parents also expect children to contribute significantly: 51% say their children should contribute up to one-third of all costs, 34% up to two-thirds, and 15% more than two thirds.
When it comes to loans, parents showed hesitancy. One third (34%) said they would not take out loans for their children’s higher ed. When asked why not, 57% of those said they do not want the debt; 20% said they would fund it in other ways such as savings, aid, or income; and 15% said they did not think higher ed should be financed through debt.
How parents think higher ed should address workforce preparedness
In terms of their child’s future career path, 71% of parents think the college experience should change. Of those, 37% said classes should be focused on career needs and training; 27% said schools should offer credentials along with degrees; and 22% said schools should test for skills/knowledge attained through comprehension, rather than hours in class.
These answers compare with what 1,000 high school students in CSF’s Youth Survey (May 2022) said when asked what they would prefer if they could design their perfect higher education experience. Their top-ranked choices were: classes based on practical work experience; classes allowing them to take a test once they mastered the material for comprehension; and those giving credit for work experience done in conjunction with school.
“Both parents and students are looking for more than an academic experience. They are also seeking to gain practical skills and credentials that they can use in their work lives,” Tsai commented.
The following breaks out parents’ higher ed plans and expectations by age groups:
Parents of Children in High School:
Offering a window into the next group of higher ed consumers, parents of 15-17-year-olds said their children plan to go to a traditional 4-year public college (34%); vocational/technical, community college or an apprenticeship program (20%); and private college (14%). 31% don’t yet know.
Parents of 18-25-year-olds:
Only 44% of parents said their 18-to-25-year-old children had gone to college and stayed there, with the remaining 56% having gone to college and switched to online courses (12%), taken a leave of absence (10%), or dropped out (7%). More than one quarter checked “Other” (27%), whose children predominantly did not go to college at all.
In terms of value, 61% of parents of this age group do not think that tuition and fees incurred by today’s higher education represent a good value for what their child was receiving.
Of the 56% of parents whose students took remote classes due to COVID, more than half – 52% – said they did not think the fees for these classes were appropriately priced.
Parents’ own plans for Higher Ed:
Not only do parents anticipate additional education to support their careers, some have already begun:
The CSF 2022 State of College Savings survey of parents was conducted with 1,000 parents across the country via Survey Monkey. The College Savings Foundation (CSF) is a Washington, D.C.- based not-for-profit organization helping American families achieve their education savings goals. www.collegesavingsfoundation.org