How likely a student is to attend college after high school graduation is still in large part determined by the educational attainment of his or her parents, writes the staff of Huffington Post. While this might not be surprising to most people, what is shocking is how much of an impact parental background has in some places. Students whose parents have at least a college degree or better are as much as five times more likely to enroll in an institution of higher education than their peers whose parents never attended college at all.
The number comes courtesy of a study from the Institute of Education (UK), whose researchers looked at college entrance statistics for a number of English-speaking nations. It turns out that the correlation between parental educational attainment and college enrollment was highest in England and Canada, while the link was less pronounced in Australia and the United States.
The findings show that in England, state school pupils whose parents hold a degree are five times more likely to go university than those whose parents left school without any qualifications. It says that gaps between the numbers of rich and poor children in England going on to higher education are “particularly large”. This is mainly down to differences in how pupils are prepared academically for university. It says that raising academic achievement for disadvantaged children should be a priority.
The study finds that the gap in England – which is the largest among countries studied – wasn’t entirely attributable to how far parents went along in their education, but rather the quality of primary and secondary schools such backgrounds provide their children. To put it simply, children of highly educated parents were more likely to go to schools that would prepare them better for the competitive university admissions process and would give them stronger academic grounding.
Still, when academic achievement is controlled for, simply having highly-educated parents doubled a student’s chances of going to college. Additionally, they were likely to enroll in one of the top 24 universities in England.
The report says: “Previous research has found that qualifications from these institutions offer economic rewards above and beyond those from a ‘typical’ bachelor’s degree.
“Hence it is a concern that young people from advantaged homes are the main beneficiaries of this labour market premium.”
The report offers recommendations to both primary and secondary education experts and college admissions officers on how to go about solving the problem. England’s education officials should put more effort in improving the overall quality of education offered in the country’s schools, while university admissions officers should start taking the applicants’ socio-economic background into account when making admissions decisions.