A survey of high school graduates from 2006 through 2011 who have not earned bachelor degrees and who are not currently enrolled in college shows that a strong majority are not happy with this aspect of their lives. The survey was conducted by the John J. Heldrich Center for Workforce Development at Rutgers University, who collected a sample of 544 high school graduates meeting these criteria. These newly-released results complement the survey I wrote about earlier when discussing the college education bubble and crash.
70 percent of the survey respondents believe that they need more education than just their high school diploma in order to have the successful careers they desire. The entrepreneurial dream may be to follow Bill Gates, forgo the expensive and questionably worthwhile college degree, start your own company in your garage, and become the next Microsoft or Facebook. For most people, that’s just a dream, and high school graduates faced the reality of trying to find a good job without a college education, whether to support their entrpreneurial dreams or to just make a decent living, are finding the experience difficult.
Half of the respondents who are lucky enough to be working took their accepted their job because it was the only position they could find or were just hoping to find a job, any job. Only 16 percent claim their job is in the field they wanted to pursue.
The next data point is the most telling. The survey respondents were asked to think back to their first year in high school and consider their own expectations. Did they plan to go to college? Out of the survey respondents, high school graduates without college degrees and not enrolled in college, 35 percent said they definitely planned to go to college and 28 percent said they probably would go to college. For these individuals, unless they something had changed their mind over the course of their four years such as belief in the entrepreneurial fantasy, they are disappointed with the outcome.
The John J. Heldrich Center for Workforce Development anticipated this, and designed the survey to explore the reasons behind the gulf between the desire to go to college and the rate of enrollment after high school. 34 percent of high school graduates not planning to attend college have made this choice out of financial necessity. They can’t afford the cost of pursuing a degree. 37 percent cite the need to get a job — another financial constraint — as a reason to forgo college. 26 percent say they are not interested in college.
In another statistics, the survey shows that college graduates have received much more financial support from their families — help with rent or a space to live at home, helping pay for food and health care, etc. — than high school graduates. While a family asking kids to pay for their own college degree might believe that this is a good lesson in self-sufficiency, and this depends on any particular situation, it might be a better lesson to make sure your own children have every opportunity available to enroll in and succeed in college.
Updated April 13, 2016 and originally published June 7, 2012.