Part I: Millennial Parenting and Education

I decided to start my series surrounding the recent results of the Pew Research Center’s survey on Millenials with education and how it will affect parenting in the coming generations, and especially as millennials begin to have children of their own.

Education, most can agree–even if we don’t agree on specific education policies–affects very much who a person becomes. It has links to poverty, crime, and overall health and wellness. And it’s undoubtedly one of the most important things a parent looks at when raising a child.

54% of current millennials have attended at least some college, with 40% of millennials still attending college, high school, or trade school. 20% of us have college degrees.  Millennials are also ambitious about their educational futures. About half of millennials still enrolled in school want to pursue a graduate or professional degree.

It comes really as no surprise that someone’s educational goals come mostly from their parents and peers. If you had parents that went to college, you are more likely to go to college. If you go to a high school that sends 90% of its graduates onto some sort of postsecondary school, you’re also more likely to go.

College enrollment is at an all-time high, with significant rises in first-generation college students. As mentioned, 54% of millennials have attended college, compared to about a third of our parents. College has become very much a ‘norm’ for our generation.  Many jobs require a college degree now, and studies have shown that college graduates make significantly more money over their lifetime than those with only a high school diploma.

This trend will undoubtedly continue on to our children. Children of millennials are finding themselves being born to parents with college degrees. Our son was (and, unfortunately for him, born to a college admissions officer).

When starting families and settling into homes, millennials, more and more, are investigating school districts, studying private school options, and creating 529 college savings plans. It is expected that those of us who went to college (and even those that didn’t) will plan on sending our children to college.

But what about the other half?

I mentioned half of millennials have attended at least some college. But about half of us are not college graduates and are not currently in school. And this is where the data is cause for some concern. Only 14% of millennials believe they need no more schooling. More than a third are not enrolled in school because it costs too much money, and another third aren’t attending because they don’t have the time.

The costs of higher education are still rising. Tuition increases are commonplace. This is not at all an issue that will end with millennials, but something that will continue with our children. College needs to be more affordable, but what are the options? Either you increase financial aid assistance or you lower the costs of college. In general, private and government loans can cover the cost of attendance for most wanting to go to college. But to many families and students (and especially in a tough economic climate), does such a significant debt burden sound like a reasonable option?

This leads to more questions. Will college costs in a college-centric society affect the number of children a family has? For instance, if you want to help pay for your child’s college education, one more child could costs tens-to-hundreds of thousands of dollars in additional education costs. Are colleges ready for what could be a huge enrollment influx in approximately 20-30 years? Will college costs rise to the point where college enrollment drops, even in spite of a generation instilling the values of college in their children?

I suppose the answer right now is: we don’t know. But as the first children of millennials start to grace the halls of elementary school, these are all issues that will soon be at the forefront of educational debate.

Next up in Part II of the series will be the effects of technology on millennial parenting!

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