Parents and Educators Voice Support for Nondegree Pathways After High School but Want Better Information on Quality Options

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American Student Assistance and Jobs for the Future survey examines parent and educator perspectives on nondegree pathways

BOSTON, Feb. 6, 2024 /PRNewswire/ — A new survey commissioned by American Student Assistance (ASA) and Jobs for the Future (JFF) finds that both parents and educators lack sufficient information about the range and quality of education to career pathways available to young people today. The survey and accompanying white paper, Beyond Degrees, finds nearly 90% of parents are interested in learning more about nondegree pathways for their children, and two in five want schools to start advising students about their postsecondary options as early as middle school. 

American Student Assistance and Jobs for the Future survey examines parent and educator perspectives on nondegree pathways.

“While the data suggests that parents and educators believe nondegree pathways present promising opportunities for today’s youth, it’s clear that many are unsure of how to help students identify, assess, and navigate these kinds of postsecondary options that will set them up for lifelong success,” said Jean Eddy, President and CEO of ASA. “This survey underscores the need to integrate information about pathways earlier in students’ educational journeys and provide families and educators with a clear picture of the outcomes of nondegree programs.” 

In a previous survey by ASA and JFF, Gen Z high school graduates shared a growing interest in nondegree education and training programs. A higher proportion of graduates who opted out of college but pursued postsecondary pathway programs like apprenticeships, bootcamps, and industry certifications after high school were employed full-time (65%), compared to 51% of youth who did not pursue those programs. The survey also highlighted a significant gap in students’ understanding of what nondegree options were available to them – nearly one in three reported a lack of confidence in knowing the steps they need to take to transition into a post-high school career and education. 

To better understand the experiences and perspectives of the adults guiding our current generation of students, ASA and JFF surveyed over 1,000 parents, and 500 educators (teachers and guidance counselors) of high school students. Conducted by Morning Consult, this new survey defines nondegree postsecondary programs as apprenticeships, bootcamps, certificate programs, industry certifications, and occupation licenses. 

Among the key findings:                                                               

  1. Parents are open to nondegree pathways for their students. Half of parents report a familiarity with nondegree pathways. When asked how disappointed or delighted they would feel if their child did not pursue a two- or four-year college experience after high school, only 28% of parents indicated that they would be disappointed, 30% said they would be delighted, and 41% were neutral on the matter.



  2. Educators see value in nondegree pathways but struggle to judge their efficacy and lack awareness of how employers respond to them. Nearly all educators (97%) thought their students would be interested in learning more about nondegree pathways, and 86% said they would approve of their students choosing to pursue a nondegree education pathway over a college or university. The top hesitations educators had about nondegree pathways were “I think employers favor job applicants with college degrees” (35%) and “I do not know how to judge the quality of nondegree pathways” (33%).



  3. Both parents and educators want students to have greater exposure to postsecondary educational options before high school. Nearly 50% of educators said they think the information and guidance about nondegree pathways that their high school provides to students are not enough. Only 26% of parents think their children are very prepared for their post high school and career transition, and 87% say they think their children will have some level of interest in learning about nondegree pathways. 

“In order to put our young people on paths that enable them to reach their goals and build meaningful careers, we have to embrace a robust ecosystem of postsecondary options, but we also have to do a better job of educating families on those options,” said Maria Flynn, President and CEO of JFF. “Helping parents and educators access clear, accurate, and timely information about diverse education-to-career pathways is critical to ensure students don’t miss out on life-changing experiences that could set them up to be inspired, confident, assured of their purpose, and highly employable.” 

To build a more equitable education to workforce system for young people, ASA and JFF recommend a series of comprehensive policy and practice shifts which include: 1) introducing information about college to career options to students more often and starting as early as middle school, 2) investing greater federal and state funding into workforce development initiatives, (3) encouraging employers to invest in and embrace skills-based hiring practices, and (4) providing resources for parents to learn more about the quality, efficacy, and value of the wide variety of education to career opportunities. 

In addition to the new survey findings and white paper, JFF and ASA are releasing a new interactive checklist for young adults to explore career interests, pathway options, and financing considerations. The Pathfinder Guide and Checklist is intended to help guide conversations with parents and guidance counselors as well. More resources about nondegree pathways can be found by visiting expandopportunities.org.

About American Student Assistance

American Student Assistance® (ASA) is a national nonprofit changing the way kids learn about careers and navigate a path to postsecondary education and career success. ASA believes all students should have equitable access to career readiness learning, starting in middle school, so they will be equipped to make informed, confident decisions about their futures. ASA fulfills its mission by providing free digital-first experiences, including Futurescape® and Next Voice™, and EvolveMe®, directly to millions of students, and through impact investing and philanthropic support for educators, intermediaries, and others. To learn more about ASA, visit www.asa.org/about-asa.

About Jobs for the Future: 

Jobs for the Future (JFF) drives transformation of the U.S. education and workforce systems to achieve equitable economic advancement for all. www.jff.org

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SOURCE American Student Assistance (ASA)

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