COVID-19 pandemic linked to lower educational aspirations in Vermont high schoolers

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NEWPORT — A comprehensive study by the Vermont Student Assistance Corporation (VSAC) has revealed a significant decline in the educational aspirations of Vermont’s high school seniors, particularly following the COVID-19 pandemic. The study, focusing on the Class of 2022, indicates a noticeable shift in post-high school plans, with a trend towards diminished interest in pursuing further education or training.

The research, which compares data from the Classes of 2022, 2018, and 2012, shows that only 70 percent of the Class of 2022 plan to continue their education after high school, a decrease from the roughly 75 percent in previous years. This change is understood to be a direct consequence of the pandemic’s disruption on educational norms and future planning.

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A more alarming trend noted in the study is the widening gap in educational aspirations based on gender and parental educational attainment. The report highlights a 24-percentage point difference in aspiration rates between first-generation high school seniors (those whose parents did not attain a four-year degree) and their second-generation counterparts (those with at least one parent who attained a four-year degree). This gap, the widest in the past decade, suggests increasing inequality in educational ambitions.

The survey also found a significant drop in educational aspirations among first-generation male students, the group with the lowest rate of aspiration. This subgroup showed a drastic decline from 58 percent in 2018 to 45 percent in 2022.

Additionally, the study reveals a decline in parental encouragement for further education. The percentage of students reporting their parents’ desire for them to continue education fell from 60 percent in 2018 to 51 percent in 2022. This decline is significant across various demographics, indicating a shift in parental perspectives on post-secondary education.

Scott Giles, VSAC President and CEO, stressed the importance of education and training for securing high-demand, high-wage jobs in Vermont. He highlighted VSAC’s commitment to making educational opportunities more accessible through initiatives like workforce grants, forgivable loan programs, and the 802Opportunity for free community college.

The full Research Brief of the Vermont High School Class of 2022 is available on the VSAC website, offering an in-depth look at the evolving educational landscape in Vermont and the challenges ahead in ensuring equitable access to post-secondary education and training.

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