The majority of Oklahoma students view higher education as important and plan to attend college after high school, but some students perceive barriers that may prevent them from fulfilling those plans, indicates a statewide survey presented to the Oklahoma State Regents for Higher Education recently.
The survey assessed the factors that affect the educational aspirations of Oklahoma fifth through 12th grade students and their parents, as well as their perceptions of the value and benefit of a college degree. The survey targeted three respondent groups: fifth through eighth grade students, ninth through 12th grade students and parents of fifth through 12th grade students. A total of 2,267 respondents participated in the statewide random telephone survey.
For the most part, the survey reveals that family income, parents' educational attainment, parental and school support, academic performance and enjoyment of schools impact students' desire to go to college. Findings show that factors such as the race and age of parents have little impact on plans to go to college.
Survey results indicate that the majority of respondents planning on attending college said they could think of no reason why they would not be able to attend. However, the remaining respondents planning on attending college indicated that if there was any reason they might not continue their education, the number one reason mentioned was the expense of college. Of students not planning on attending college, lack of motivation is cited as the main reason for not attending college. In addition, respondents indicated that, for the most part, financial aid is seen as available, but families of students not planning on attending college see college as more expensive than do families of students planning to attend college.
The survey also shows that all respondents view higher education as important for obtaining better jobs, expanding career choices and earning more money.
The survey, conducted by Jordan Associates, was commissioned by the State Regents as part of the Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Programs (GEAR UP) program. The purpose of the survey was to gather baseline data to formulate a statewide communications effort that will help increase high school-to-college going rates.
GEAR UP is a federal program designed to help middle school and high school students better prepare for college. In August 1999, the U.S. Department of Education awarded Oklahoma a five-year grant totaling $20.5 million to implement GEAR UP activities across the state, including scholarships, college preparation, and awareness programs for student and parents.
"The survey tells us that the majority of Oklahoma youth plan to go to college," said Chancellor Hans Brisch. "Yet, the majority of Oklahomans do not have a college degree. This inconsistency demonstrates that we need to further educate students and their parents about higher education opportunities available to them. Eliminating perceived barriers to attending college is a main objective of the GEAR UP program."
The GEAR UP program has developed the following materials to promote higher education as an attainable goal.
"I am encouraged to see so many young Oklahomans with college aspirations," said State Regents Chairman Leonard J. Eaton Jr. "Through the efforts of the GEAR UP program and the materials they have produced, we can continue to empower Oklahomans with the knowledge they need to be prepared for and to make those important decisions about college."
The GEAR UP grant was awarded to Oklahoma in August 1999 and has been matched by more than $25 million from state and partner resources. With funds totaling $45.5 million, GEAR UP receives 45 percent of total funding from the federal government and 55 percent from other organizations.