BENNINGTON -- The Vermont Student Assistance Corporation has published the results of a 2012 survey of high school seniors in Vermont, which shows that the females in the state are much more likely to plan to enroll in postsecondary education than males.
The study, which was taken by eight out of 10 seniors in Vermont, found that 74.8 percent planned to enroll in either postsecondary education or a training program, which is about equal to the 2010 results. However, a strong gap existed between males and females, with 82 percent of females aspiring to receive education after high school, compared to only 67 percent of males. Among first-generation students, defined by the study as students whose parents do not have a four-year degree, 76 percent of females plan to continue their education, compared to only 55 percent of males, an even starker contrast.
While the male-female statistics are not available by county, Bennington County students did report that 84.5 percent of non-first generation students planned to receive postsecondary education, compared to 68.7 percent of first generation students. The state averages for these statistics are 86 percent and 67 percent respectively, putting Bennington very close to average in both categories.
"VSAC's goal is to make sure every Vermonter can pursue studies after high school," said Scott Giles, VSAC's president and CEO. "Today's economy demands a skilled workforce. Education and training after high school is not a luxury, it's a necessity. The purpose of this study is to draw attention to one of the most important social justice and economic inequality issues facing our state. Only by acknowledging these issues will we come together to solve them."
The report showed that parents' recommendations to students played a large role in their decision whether or not to seek education after high school. Among first generation students whose parents want their child to continue their studies, 87 percent of males and 92 percent of females answered that they planned to do just that. The numbers are even more pronounced among non-first generation students whose parents encourage them to continue their studies, with 97 percent of males and 98 percent of females answering positively. Among first generation students whose parents want them to join the workforce, only 14 percent of males and 17 percent of females want to go against the parents wishes. Among non-first generation students whose parents want them to enter the workforce, 36 percent of males and 32 percent of females aspire to continue their studies.
The report also provided recommendations aimed at improving postsecondary opportunities for Vermont students, including to "develop strategies to encourage parents to begin conversations about education and training after high school as early as possible," to "explore alternatives for how, who, and when to provide career and postsecondary education information and adapt the delivery of this ‘aspiration curriculum' to meet the individual needs of the school and its students," to "target students with the specific supplemental services needed to complete a rigorous high school curriculum," to "expand the availability and use of Introduction to College Studies, dual-enrollment, and early college programs by first generation and low income students," and to "ensure that every high school senior has the means to develop and begin executing a career, education, and training plan prior to graduation."
In March, Community College of Vermont president Joyce Judy praised The Flexible Pathways Act, which was signed by Gov. Peter Shumlin last June, which provides for the expansion of Vermont's dual enrollment and early college programs. "I believe that college provides opportunity," said Judy, "It doesn't guarantee a student a job, but it opens a lot of doors that otherwise might not be open. At the same time I recognize that college perhaps isn't for everyone right away, but I think the whole notion of continuous education and continuing to learn is something that we're all going to have to embrace. If you look at the sophistication of entry level workers, it continues to ramp up. In my parents' generation, an eighth-grade education got them a long way. In my generation, if you graduated from high school you had a pretty good chance of getting a good job and keeping it. Today, people are going to need to think that they need education beyond the secondary level to really keep up with the demands of the changing workforce."
"Vermont's reputation for high quality education is at risk unless we support policies that make education and training after high school a reality for all Vermonters," said Giles, "This should be a priority and a commitment to the state's future, both for Vermonters and the state's economy."
Derek Carson can be reached for comment at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @DerekCarsonBB