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Parents Lack Faith in Liberal Arts Degree, Survey Finds

Parents increasingly say the reason for their children going to college is to secure a good job, but few believe a liberal arts education is the ticket. In fact, a new survey finds more believe that no college at all or a vocational, technical or professional certificate degree are more likely to lead to a good job than a liberal arts education.

A Gallup poll conducted for Inside Higher Ed of nearly 3,300 American parents with at least one child in 5th to 12th grade found they placed a high value on vocational certificates over liberal arts degrees and financial concerns were limiting where students applied to college.

Parents were asked in phone interviews last fall whether they believed a liberal arts education or a vocational/technical/professional program would lead to a good job. The results show that about 42 percent of parents strongly felt the best path to employment was vocational/technical/professional program, followed by 30 percent who said no college at all can lead to a good job, and 28 percent strongly agreed with a liberal arts path.

Despite the college-for-all push, some parents in the Gallup sample do not believe going to college is always a necessary step to sound employment.

When parents were asked to respond to the statement: "I am confident that there are ways other than going to college that could lead my child to a good job," 31 percent strongly agreed (with the highest answer of 5 on a scale of 1 to 5), while another 16 percent answered 4. Just 19 percent strongly disagreed with the concept.

Parents' angst over investing in college for job security rose as their children were closer to high school graduation. The survey found the top reason for going to college among parents of children in grades 5-8 was "to get a good job" (35 percent), but for parents of 9th to 12th graders 41 percent said it was the biggest factor.

On the issue of money, just 16 percent of parents say they won't restrict where their children apply to college because of concerns about costs, and another 14 percent said it was "not very likely" that they would do so, the survey found. This reflects, in part, a lack of understanding among families about the difference between the published sticker price and the bottom-line cost to students when aid is taken into account, the Inside Higher Ed article notes.


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