CSF’s survey of High School Students finds Skills Training more important than Majors

June 20, 2018

Dump the majors? Poll finds high school students want skills that will get them hired.


Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

The majority of high school students who will be entering college over the next three years would like to see more colleges promote education and skills training rather than only offering majors for future employment, according to an annual survey by the Washington-D.C.-based College Savings Foundation.

In its ninth annual survey of how high school students across the nation are making higher education choices, the College Savings Foundation found 81 percent would like to see colleges offer skills instead of majors; 70 percent would prefer to go to that school; and 63 percent said their career plans were affecting their school choice.

The survey of more than 500 high school sophomores, juniors and seniors found they are practical consumers with an increasing number taking a closer look at technical schools, vocational schools and community colleges. More than half of those surveyed — 53 percent — are planning to attend a traditional four-year college.

But for the past four years, the number of students embracing skills-based education has been growing. This year, 36 percent have their sights set on attending a technical school; 28 percent are headed to community college; and 8 percent will attend a vocational school.

“Looking at our survey from 2015 to 2018, the number of students planning on going to community college has increased 9 percent,” said Richard Polimeni, chair of the College Savings Foundation and director of the education savings program at Bank of America Merrill Lynch in Pennington, N.J.

“Similarly, we’ve also seen that trend with students electing to go to vocational or technical types of schools or programs. It’s less expensive and quicker to get into the workforce that way,” he said. “Trades are an area of growth in terms of employment.”

Generally speaking, a liberal arts education is an approach to learning that involves diverse coursework so that students develop a range of knowledge. It is designed to prepare students for a variety of career options, rather than for a specific occupation.

Another key factor in deciding where they will seek higher education is cost.

“High school students are taking responsibility for their education choices and making decisions early in life to support them,” Mr. Polimeni said. “We’re encouraged to see that saving is already an important part of their education planning process.”

Seventy-five percent of the students surveyed said costs are a factor in deciding which school to attend, and the majority — 57 percent — is already saving for high education.

The survey recorded the highest percentage ever over the nine years the poll has been taken who said they plan on working to reduce college costs — 85 percent. 

Parents, be warned. The percentage who are planning to live at home during college also has increased in the past three years. This year it was 62 percent, up from 56 percent last year and 53 percent the year before.

Tim Grant: or 412-263-1591.