Study finds that more high schoolers are prioritizing on-the-job training over college opportunities

A decline in college motivation among high schoolers is evident, as they now prioritize on-the-job training and certificate programs for quicker, more cost-effective job opportunities, a recent survey reveals.

Current data indicates an 8% drop in college enrollment compared to 2019, as previously reported by USA TODAY. The latest survey, outlined in a new document this month, points to reasons such as avoiding debt, the pressure associated with college, and the question of whether the investment in college is worth it.

The survey, conducted by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, involved high school juniors, seniors, and young adults aged 18 to 30 who opted out of college, gathering opinions on the value of a four-year degree and other educational paths through focus groups and online interactions.

These are the insights shared.

Insights from the Data

The survey shows that high schoolers and non-enrolled adults view the value of a four-year college education as “middle of the pack,” with 72% of students and 57% of non-enrolled graduates considering it excellent or good. This reflects a decrease compared to the previous year’s survey results for non-enrolled graduates.

On-the-job training is increasingly valued by both high school students and non-enrolled graduates, with 83% of the former and 77% of the latter rating it as excellent or good. The preference for trade and vocational schools has also risen among non-enrolled graduates.

A two-year degree is viewed positively by nearly 70% of respondents, indicating a good or excellent value.

Additional Discoveries

The primary incentives for pursuing a four-year degree include potential for higher income and enhanced career prospects, as highlighted by both groups.

While 58% of high schoolers and 51% of non-enrolled graduates agree that a college degree is necessary for a good job today, barriers preventing them from pursuing it continue to pose challenges.

High school students receive positive encouragement from counselors, parents, and teachers regarding college attendance, contrasting with less supportive discussions among peers and on social media.

Proposed Solutions

Doubts among high schoolers about the value of a college degree call for solutions such as debt relief, financial planning support, and guidance towards a rewarding career path.

Similarly, non-enrolled graduates could benefit from guidance in connecting their interests with education and careers, as well as assistance in finding pathways to college completion.

For a detailed examination of the report, click here.

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