In the Classroom

Survey: Idaho students question college value

A University of Idaho study may have hit on a reason why the state’s go-on rate to college among high school seniors is among the worst in the county.

And here’s a hint: It isn’t just about paying for school.

In a survey last September of 385 just-graduated high school seniors from across the state, a third weren’t completely convinced that a college education would get them a high working wage.

Results are in the U of I McClure Center for Public Policy Research report titled “Life After High School” on what high school students do after graduation.

Results were released Friday, a day after the Idaho Department of Labor told lawmakers the state is losing half the students that do graduate from college after four years and low pay is likely a contributing factor, wrote Betsy Russell, Spokesman-Review reporter.

In a state well-known for its low pay, the message that Idahoans may not earn much could be trumping the advantages of a college education.

Moreover, just 17 percent of those surveyed said they strongly believed that an Idaho post-secondary education was a good value. “I think they are skeptical that there are jobs that will enable them to pay off whatever financial liability they incur,” said Priscilla Salant, McClure Center director.

The survey also showed that 53 percent of senior women enroll in post-secondary programs, compared with 38 percent of men.

Among men, making money was a significant factor in deciding whether or not to get a post-secondary degree.

Survey results point to the need for the university to do more to tailor its message to potential students, said U of I President Chuck Staben, who requested the survey. “For example,” he said, “targeting males with ads emphasizing jobs and affordability.”

Among students who did not go on to post-secondary programs, two-thirds were working in food service or preparation, office support or entertainment, the survey showed. And more than a third who did not go on to school said they probably would not in the next year. Their reasons:

▪  44 percent said they couldn’t afford post-secondary education.

▪  36 percent said they didn’t need a college eduction for the job they wanted.

▪  26 percent said they didn’t need a post-secondary education to make money.