VSAC Senior Survey Confirms Growing Gender & Geographic Gaps in Vermont

May 1st, 2014

Fewer males opt for education after high school; Lamoille County reports biggest gap in postsecondary education ambitions


WINOOSKI (April 29, 2014) – Females are outpacing males in pursuing postsecondary education in Vermont and the state is seeing wide variations by county in who chooses to continue studies after high school.

These are two of the significant findings from “2012 Senior Survey: A Look at Geographic and Gender Differences in Postsecondary Education Aspiration,”published today by the Vermont Student Assistance Corp. VSAC has been conducting the Senior Survey since 1978, and more than eight out of 10 seniors typically complete it.

“VSAC’s goal is to make sure every Vermonter can pursue studies after high school,” said Scott Giles, president and CEO. “Today’s economy demands a skilled workforce. Education and training after high school is not a luxury; it’s a necessity. The purpose of this study is to draw attention to one of the most important social justice and economic inequality issues facing our state.  Only by acknowledging these issues will we come together to solve them.”

The percentage of Vermont high school graduates in 2012 who planned to enroll in a postsecondary education or training program, also called the “aspiration rate,” was found to be 74.8 percent, or about the same as 2010, and down from a record high of 76.3 percent overall in 2008.

Results from the 2012 survey also showed aspiration gaps between high school graduates whose parents do not have a four-year degree (“first-generation” students) and those who have at least one parent with a four-year degree. Overall, only 67 percent of first-generation students said they planned to continue their studies as compared to 86 percent of students with a parent with a college degree.

Equally compelling were the discrepancies found by gender. The aspiration rate for all females was 82 percent while only 67 percent of males planned on pursuing education or training after high school.

The gap between first-generation females and males was even starker: 76 percent of females planned to continue their studies as compared to only 55 percent of males.

This year’s findings also showed differences in aspiration rates regionally, from a low of 53 percent for first-generation students in Lamoille County to a high of 73 percent in Windsor County.

Similarly, aspiration rates for students with at least one parent with a four-year degree also varied markedly: from a low of 80 percent in Franklin County to almost 96 percent in Grand Isle County.

The VSAC Senior Survey report also provides recommendations aimed at improving postsecondary education opportunities for all Vermont students.  

Among the initiatives laid out in the report are:

  • Develop strategies to encourage parents to begin conversations about education and training after high school as early as possible;
  • Explore alternatives for how, who, and when to provide career and postsecondary education information and adapt the delivery of this “aspiration curriculum” to meet the individual needs of the school and its students;
  • Target students with the specific supplemental services needed to complete a rigorous high school curriculum;
  • Expand the availability and use of Introduction to College Studies (ICS), dual enrollment and early college programs by first-generation and low-income students;
  • Ensure that every high school senior has the means to develop and begin executing a career, education, and training plan prior to graduation.

“Vermont’s reputation for high quality education is at risk unless we support policies that make education and training after high school a reality for all Vermonters,” Giles said. “This should be a priority and a commitment to the state’s future – both for Vermonters and the state’s economy.”

About VSAC

Vermont Student Assistance Corporation is a public, nonprofit corporation created by the Vermont Legislature in 1965 to help Vermonters plan and pay for education or training beyond high school.  VSAC administers Vermont’s 529 college savings plan; outreach services to encourage low-income students to aspire to and complete college; college and career planning services for all Vermonters; need-based state grants for full-time, part-time and non-degree study; public and private scholarship programs; and private education loans. Find us at www.vsac.org or on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/VermontStudentAssistanceCorporation.