Inspirations and Aspirations: A Survey of 2013 Utah High School Graduates

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Utah Foundation collaborated with Salt Lake Community College to survey high school students graduating in 2013 about their post-high school intentions. The survey was designed to query graduates’ attitudes, knowledge, and motivation about attending higher education, their influences towards pursuing higher education, and their understanding of financial feasibility. These results are set in the context of raising the number of post-secondary degrees or certificates among Utah’s workforce to 66% in 2020 from 43% today.

A vast majority of survey respondents expect to obtain post-secondary degrees or trade certificates. More non-White graduates and female graduates indicated that they would be in college or job training within six months of completing high school than White graduates and male graduates; this is mainly due to the latter graduates performing church missions and service work. Respondents believe that their own personal motivation is the most important factor in their post-secondary plans. Interestingly, counselors and teachers seem to play a more important role in the decisions for graduates with lower family incomes and whose parents have lower educational attainment.

Respondents strongly indicated that they were pursing education to get a job later, learn new job skills, and learn about subjects that are interesting and challenging. Over half of the graduates themselves expected to receive a bachelor’s degree and over one-third expected to go even further into graduate school. However, Utah’s greatest percentage increase in post-secondary education over the past ten years is from the completion of trade certificates.

grad_survey_2013_reasonsThere is a continuing trend toward higher education both nationally and in Utah. Women have more education than men; this post-secondary gender gap is smaller in Utah than in the U.S. Utah men are outperforming U.S. men and Utah women are underperforming U.S. women due to a blend of demographic and cultural reasons.

Nearly 90% of graduates are at least somewhat sure about the kind of career they want. When thinking about these future plans, the respondents were focused on getting a good education, doing interesting work, having steady work, and having strong family connections.

The survey results indicate that family income and race were related to the most significant response differences, with gender and ethnicity somewhat less so. Mothers’ educational attainment levels seem to have a greater effect on responder differences than fathers’ educational attainment.

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