March 29, 2005

Study: Most U.S. 10th Graders Plan to Pursue a Bachelor's Degree

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RESEARCH TRIANGLE PARK, N.C. -- A survey of the nation’s 10th graders in 2002 indicated that 72 percent planned to pursue a bachelor’s degree or higher, suggesting that high school students are becoming increasingly aware of the need to attain a college education to succeed in today’s society.

In surveys of 10th graders conducted in 1980 and 1990, the figures were 41 percent and 59 percent, respectively.

The new report, prepared for the U.S. Department of Education by RTI International, is based on results from the first round of a longitudinal study that seeks to determine whether those same students actually achieve their academic goals and to explore the factors that influence those outcomes.

Researchers expect data later this year from a follow-up survey of the students conducted during the 2003-2004 school year.

"Looking at our study and the previous research, the data suggest that students increasingly see the value of higher education," said Daniel Pratt, Education Studies Computing Program Director at RTI, and the study’s project director.

"We aim to develop an accurate assessment of students’ progress in achieving their stated goals and to gain insights into factors that may disrupt or alter those plans," Pratt said.

The findings were released earlier this month by the Department of Education’s National Center for Education Statistics in a report titled "A Profile of the American High School Sophomore in 2002." The findings included the following:

  • 8 percent of students surveyed expected to complete only high school or less
  • 10 percent expected to attend college but obtain less than a four-year degree
  • 36 percent expected to graduate from a four-year program
  • 20 percent expected to obtain a master's degree
  • 16 percent expected to obtain a Ph.D., M.D., or other advanced doctoral or professional degree
  • 10 percent were unsure of their aspirations.

The data for the study were obtained from a nationally representative sample of 15,362 sophomores in 752 public and private schools, who were studied in the spring term of the 2001-2002 school year.

The report covered students' sociodemographic and educational characteristics; examined their school experiences; explored their extracurricular activities; studied how they spent their time by examining time spent in reading for pleasure, doing homework, working for pay and using the computer; examined their tested achievement in reading and math; and looked at their values, expectations, and plans.

The full text of "A Profile of the American High School Sophomore in 2002: Initial Results From the Base Year of the Education Longitudinal Study of 2002" can be obtained online at the National Center for Education Statistics site.