Going To College? In Vermont, Wide Differences In Access, Aspiration

May 1, 2014

A new report from the Vermont Student Assistance Corporation shows wide differences across gender, geography, and income level when it comes to wanting—and getting—a college education.

Vermont is good at getting students to graduate from high school. Nearly 88 percent of them do, according to Education Agency statistics. But what do they do next?

That’s what VSAC’s survey asked high school seniors in 2012. And the answers depended on where they lived, how much money their family made, whether their parents encouraged them to go on to college, and whether they were male or female.

Aspiring to College

Overall, nearly 75 percent of the respondents said they aspired to post-secondary education or training. That’s higher than the national average. But it’s slightly down since 2008, possibly because of the ensuing recession. The aspiration rate varies by county, with Rutland and Lamoille at the low end of the spectrum, and remote Essex County at the high end—debunking the myth that rural students are less motivated to attend college than their more urban  cousins.

The data also show a widening gap between men and women, with nearly 90 percent of females from families whose parents went to college planning to follow suit. In that same cohort, only 82 percent of men aspired to post-secondary training, And in families where the respondents  would be the first generation to continue their education after high school, those numbers drop to  about 77 percent for women, and only 55 percent for men.

Vermont ranks second in the nation in college participation rates for students from low-income families. - VSAC report

Parental influence plays a role in planning for college,  and so does high school achievement.

Going to College

The survey also tracks how many students who wanted to go to college actually got there: 60 percent of first-generation female students enrolled, but only 42 percent of first-generation male students took that step.

On the bright side, “Vermont ranks second in the nation in college participation rates for students form low-income families."

The VSAC survey notes that, “Some have compared our state’s ability to transition students from high school to college as a leaky pipeline. Senior Survey data suggest that the education pipeline leaks for all student groups, regardless of gender or parental educational attainment. There is, surprisingly, no difference between first-generation males and females who are not first-generation. Both groups’ post-secondary enrollment rates are lower than their aspiration rates by about 13 points, making an even stronger case for the need to change how we engage and prepare all Vermont students to continue their education after high school.”