Barriers to Enrollment: High School Students Perceptions of What it Will Take to Go to College

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1 Barriers to Enrollment: School Students Perceptions of What it Will Take to Go to College MiraCosta College Spring 2008 Prepared by: School Relations and Diversity Outreach Office & Institutional Research Office 1

2 Executive Summary In the spring of 2008, a survey was distributed to a sample of students currently enrolled at high schools within the MiraCosta College district area. The intent was to learn about what students thought about community colleges, the likelihood of attending college after graduation, and what they perceived as barriers preventing them from going to college. The resulting sample included students surveyed at the local high school, and students who came to MiraCosta College to complete the college matriculation process. The total number of students surveyed was 682. While colleges want to believe that the quality of their programs and services are what brings students to their campus, costs, family encouragement and the desires of their friends also play key roles. Cost is cited as the greatest barrier to college enrollment, followed by financial obligations and concerns that they may not be academically prepared for the rigors of college coursework Students ethnicities played a role in several areas. Hispanic and African-American students indicated a need to rely more heavily on financial aid than on contributions from their family. Hispanic students were significantly less likely to receive encouragement from their families compared to White students. African-American students, while not to the level of statistical significance, were also less likely to receive encouragement than their white peers. Thirty-four percent of students agreed that community colleges were designed for students who were not prepared for a four year college or university. This could be interpreted as either a positive or negative quality. More in-depth questions are necessary to probe the intent of this response. Forty percent of all students, and 43% of college-bound students said that they were encouraged to first attend a community college prior to moving on to a four year institution. This is somewhat surprising, considering the large proportion of students in the sample who had taken steps to enroll at MiraCosta College. Yet in spite of the fact that students would not necessarily be encouraged to attend, the majority of students reported that their family and friends (69% and 59% respectively) have a positive attitude about community colleges. The results of this survey lay the foundation for key areas of future study. A partnership with district high schools is necessary to conduct an in-class survey that touches all sectors of the high school community. 2

3 Background What are high school students perceptions of college? What do they think it will take to go to college? Do they think that they have the skills and resources to attend college? In the spring of 2007, the chair of a committee focused on removing barriers to enrollment requested that a survey be conducted at our local high schools. The focus of the survey was students perceptions of barriers associated with going to college. The original intent was to distribute surveys to students in each of the district high schools. Logistical issues prevented the survey from being distributed to all schools. The alternative was to administer it to all high school seniors who participated in MiraCosta College s matriculation outreach programs. The challenge with a sample of this nature is that it captured a large percentage of seniors who, presumably, have already made the decision to go to college. For this reason, additional efforts were made to survey as many high school students in their classrooms as possible. MiraCosta College Student Ambassadors visited several high schools (both traditional and alternative) to administer the survey. At the end of the survey period, 308 students completed the survey during the outreach programs, and another 374 students completed the survey in their classrooms, for a total of 682 responses. Analysis Demographically, the sample yielded a slightly different makeup than what is seen at district high schools. (See Table 1) Within the MiraCosta College district area, White high school students remain the majority group with Hispanic students making up a significant portion of the remainder. The sample, however, consisted predominantly Hispanic students. This is attributed to a greater proportion of White students go directly to fouryear institutions, and the outreach efforts being made to encourage minority students to attend a Community College. It should also be noted that a much larger proportion of students identify themselves as Multi- Racial. Two percent of the survey respondents chose not to respond to the question, while 7.6% indicated a multi-racial identity. The unusually high percentage of students in the multi-racial categories is not that surprising when one considers that students information could have been provided as many as 12 years prior, when the student enrolled in kindergarten. Multi-racial categories have only recently become common practice. Now given the opportunity to selfidentify, students responses may vary from what was originally indicted. 3

4 Table 1: Ethnic Comparisons MCC District Schools Survey Sample American Indian or Alaska Native 1% 1% Asian/Pacific Islander 9% 7% Hispanic or Latino 34% 44% African American/Black 4% 5% White (not Hispanic) 50% 29% Multiple or No Response 2% 14% Note: school enrollment based on school year Source: California Department of Education - At the conclusion of the survey period, it became apparent that there were two distinct populations contained within the sample. Those students who completed the matriculation process at MiraCosta College were almost entirely high school seniors, presumably intending to attend college in the fall. Students enrolled at the local high schools were distributed through all four grades. (See Table 2) In several instances, their responses were very different from those who came to the college. Where appropriate, we will break out the two groups of students. Table 2: Grade Levels of Respondents Surveys from Local Schools MCC Testers Freshmen 26% 0% Sophomores 10% 0% Juniors 42% 0.6% Seniors 22% 99% Question: What are your plans immediately after high school? The intent of this question was to determine what students intended to do in terms of school/work once they graduated from high school. Since most high school seniors have at least a tentative post-graduation plan, it was of interest to see if there were differences in the responses between seniors and the lower grade levels. Based on the responses, it was clear that this question was interpreted differently than what was originally intended. While the goal was to have students respond to a single category, the majority responded in multiple categories. Therefore, the responses in the table below should be interpreted as, At least XX percent of students intend to do this following graduation from high school. 4

5 Table 3: Responses to the question, "What are your plans immediately after high school?" Seniors (n=387) Underclassmen (n=288) Going to work 58% 48% Attending a two-year community college 76% 49% Attend a vocational college (ITT Tech, 8% 16% Maric College, etc) Complete my freshman and sophomore 62% 31% year at a community college Go straight to a four-year 11% 24% college/university Join the military 2% 10% Take time off between high school and 7% 28% college to decide on future plans I am unsure of my plans after high school 15% 34% The responses from the seniors were more focused than their younger peers. In both cases, however, both going to work and attending a community college generated a large number of responses. The challenge for MiraCosta College will be to assist students in effective use of time-management so that students can balance their school and workrelated responsibilities. Question: What are the reasons that would keep you from going to college? One of the primary goals of the community colleges is to provide access to an education for all students. For this reason, it is extremely important that the college does everything it can to eliminate as many of the barriers as possible. The college reviews its internal processes on a regular basis to ensure that the application, registration and enrollment processes go as smoothly as possible. But what about the barriers that exist before students set foot on campus? What issues do they perceive in their own world that would prevent them from obtaining an education? 5

6 Figure 1: Perceived Barriers to Going to College Students cited cost as the primary barrier. Sixty-six percent of students indicated that the cost of education would prevent them from going to college. Financial obligations, such as a car, rent, or groceries was the second most commonly cited reason at 41%, and a third of the students responded that their high school grades would be a factor that would keep them from going to college. It was interesting to note the disparity between the influence of the family and that of a student s friends. Fourteen percent of students reported that they would be prevented from going to college if they were the first, or only person in the family to go. And while students report that their friends attendance was important when selecting a college, only five percent indicated that it would be a factor that would prevent them from going to college. The results were then broken out by ethnicity. (See Table 4) White students were the least likely to cite cost as a barrier to going to college, while Hispanic and African- American students were more likely to be influenced by the college attendance of friends and other family members. One surprising result was the fact that White students were the most likely to cite concern that their high 6

7 school grades would prevent them from going to college. The reasoning behind this is unknown. A possible explanation might be related to the expectations of the different student groups. White students could more likely be influenced by the expectation of going to college, and spend more time concerned with grades. Hispanic and African- Americans may not be as influenced by similar expectations. Table 4: Perceived Barriers to Going to College - By Ethnicity 1 American Indian/Alaska Native n 8 Cost Difficulty of Coursework Financial Obligations No Other Family Members College Not Needed for Job Friends Aren't Going Grades aren't Good Enough I don't need college 86% 25% 60% 33% 0% 0% 50% 0% Asian 30 59% 15% 37% 7% 4% 4% 18% 7% Hawaiian/ 15 Pacific Islander 50% 36% 31% 15% 8% 0% 36% 8% Black/African 33 American 82% 24% 42% 12% 9% 9% 33% 9% Hispanic/ 301 Latino/Chicano 70% 27% 41% 18% 15% 7% 32% 7% Caucasian/ 200 White 58% 17% 41% 8% 10% 4% 38% 5% Other 28 63% 27% 28% 12% 20% 0% 28% 8% Multi-Racial 52 68% 18% 42% 12% 14% 5% 36% 7% Decline to State 14 71% 17% 54% 18% 9% 0% 25% 9% 1 Neither the rows nor columns will add up to 100%, as students were allowed to respond to multiple categories. 7

8 Figure 2: Perceived Barriers to Going to College by Enrollment Level When the responses were broken out by enrollment level, the responses in most cases were not dramatically different. The most striking difference between the two groups was seen in the Financial Obligations category. A possible reason for this is that seniors may have a greater awareness of and responsibility for housing, transportation, etc. They are also less concerned about the difficulty of the coursework, the fact that none of their friends are attending college, or that no one in their family went to college. If the cost is the primary concern for high school students, then how does a college-bound student intend to pay for it? 8

9 Question: If you plan to attend college, where will the money come from to pay your tuition and expenses? Table 5: Student Sources of College Funding All Students Minor Major source Source Parents Funding College Not a Source 45.6% 36.4% 18.0% Scholarships 35.1% 40.2% 24.7% Student Loans/Financial Aid 36.8% 39.0% 24.2% My Own Income 32.6% 42.8% 24.6% When looked at as an aggregate group, the majority of students saw their parents as the primary source of their college funding. Scholarships, loans, and their own incomes were less significant factors. Table 6: Student Sources of College Funding - By Enrollment Status Major source Minor Source Not a Source Parents Funding Seniors 50.6% 32.1% 17.3% College Underclassmen 38.5% 42.5% 19.0% Scholarships Seniors 33.1% 43.1% 23.8% Underclassmen 38.1% 35.7% 26.2% Student Seniors 39.9% 37.3% 22.8% Loans/Financial Aid Underclassmen 31.9% 41.7% 26.4% My Own Income Seniors 34.4% 40.0% 25.6% Underclassmen 29.9% 47.1% 23.1% Seniors and underclassmen have differing opinions on how they intend to pay for college, at least with regards to where their funding is going to come from. While half of high school seniors saw their parents as a major source of funding, only 38.5% of underclassmen held the same opinion. Overall, however, parental contributions were still the most likely source of college funding for both groups. Table 7 looks at funding sources by ethnicity. In some cases, the groups are too small to make significant inferences, however, it is interesting to note the trends. Ninety-one percent of white students indicated that their parents were to play at least a minor role in their college funding, while 73% of Hispanic and 81% of Black/African-American students felt that way. Hispanic populations did not show a strong preference for a funding source, while Black/African- American students appear more likely to utilize scholarships, student loans, financial aid and their own income to fund their education. 9

10 Table 7: Areas That Will Be Utilized As A Source Of Funding By Ethnicity Student n Parents Funding College Scholarships Loans/ Financial Aid My Own Income American Indian/Alaska 8 Native 100% 80% 100% 71% Asian 30 96% 81% 65% 54% Hawaiian/Pacific 15 Islander 71% 75% 67% 64% Black/African American 33 81% 90% 92% 81% Hispanic/Latino/ 301 Chicano 73% 74% 75% 76% Caucasian/White % 72% 73% 77% Multi-Racial 52 82% 77% 83% 80% Other 28 96% 76% 64% 70% Decline to State 14 73% 92% 91% 92% Students were also asked whether or not they felt that their families could afford to help with college costs. Forty-four percent agreed that their family could help, with the remaining 56% disagreeing or neutral. At MiraCosta College, the percentage of the student body who utilizes some sort of financial aid is 19%. 2 This could be an indicator that there is a portion of the population who choose not to go to college because it is perceived to be cost prohibitive. 2 Source: Spring 2008 Student Data 10

11 Table 8: Responses To The Statement "My Family Can Afford To Financially Assist Me In Going To College." All Students % Agree 19% Agree 25% Neutral 27% 18% 10% Table 9 illustrates the percentage of students who either agreed or strongly agreed with the statement below, based on their ethnicity. Asian, White and students listing themselves as Other had higher levels of agreement than the other ethnic groups. Table 9: Responses To The Statement "My Family Can Afford To Financially Assist Me In Going To College." By Ethnicity N % American Indian/Alaska Native 8 38% Asian 30 57% Hawaiian/Pacific Islander 15 50% Black/African American 33 38% Hispanic/Latino/Chicano % Caucasian/White % Multi-Racial 52 35% Other 28 65% Decline to State 14 36% Question: What are the most important factors you will consider when selecting your college? Students were then asked what their most important factors were for selecting a college. Cost figured heavily in the prohibitive factors for going to college, but it was not the primary issue when selecting their college. (See Figure 3) A college s programs ranked as the highest factor at 81%, while 69% indicated that cost was important. A college s reputation and distance from home did not rank as high, but were given similar levels of importance. On-campus housing and sports programs were important to more than 30% of respondents, and not to be overlooked is the role that a student s friends play in their decision-making process. Approximately 29% indicated that going to a college where their friends attended was an important factor when selecting a college 11

12 Figure 3: Factors Considered When Selecting a College - All Students Since most seniors would have already made their college decision by the spring of their senior year, the totals were separated by enrollment level to see if there were differences between seniors and other underclassmen. 12

13 Figure 4: Factors Considered When Selecting a College - By Enrollment Status The differences between the two groups in Figure 4 were somewhat surprising. A college s programs were still cited as an important factor, but underclassmen were much less likely to cite cost as an important factor. Disparities were seen in almost all of the categories, with the exception of campus housing, parental influence and sports programs. The reasoning for this is unknown. A possible explanation for this could be that seniors, likely to have more familiarity with the college search process, have a stronger sense of the important factors. The makeup of the sample could also account for the part of the disparity. Perceptions of College The survey included several questions related to students perceptions of both of college in general, and specifically community colleges. Since a large portion of the sample was taken from students completing their matriculation requirements and presumably were predisposed to going to MiraCosta, we have broken down the responses into two groups: those who took the survey online at the MiraCosta College campus, and those who 13

14 completed it in their high school classroom Table 10 was designed to determine whether or not students were electing to go to college on their own, or if their plans were dictated by someone else. Table 10: Responses to the statement "My decision to go to college is completely my own." Agree Agree Neutral % # % # % # % # % # School 53% % % 37 3% 12 3% 9 MiraCosta College 44% % 92 18% 52 6% 17 2% 5 Total 49% % % 89 5% 29 2% 14 Figures were also run on solely those students who intended to go to college following graduation. The outcomes were almost identical to the total percentages. It is interesting to see that those who took the survey at the high school had a greater percentage of those who either agreed or strongly agreed that their college decision was selfinitiated. Table 11: Responses to the statement "I know what subject I want to study." Agree Agree Neutral % # % # % # % # % # School 30% % 68 30% % 38 8% 26 MiraCosta College 25% 74 25% 74 31% 91 15% 45 4% 12 Total 28% % % % 83 6% 38 There was no difference between any of the groups calculated (seniors vs. underclassmen, college-bound vs. non-college bound, etc.) on this question. About half of the students knew what they wanted to study when they got to college, 30% may have some idea, and 20% weren t at all sure. 14

15 Table 12: Responses to the statement "My parents want me to go to college." Agree Agree Neutral % # % # % # % # % # School 59% % 87 12% 41 2% 7 1% 4 MiraCosta College 65% % 76 9% 26 1% 2 0% 1 Total 61% % % 67 1% 9 1% 5 Table 12 is one of several questions within this survey designed to gauge the amount of parental support students receive when making their post-college plans. Table 13 breaks the responses out based on those who plan to attend college following graduation, and those who do not. Table 13: Responses to the statement "My parents want me to go to college." - by post-graduation plans Agree Agree Neutral n % # % # % # % # % # College- Bound % % % 51 1% 5 0% 1 NOT College- Bound 99 53% 52 23% 23 16% 16 4% 4 4% 4 Total % % % 67 1% 9 1% 5 The figures were also run by post graduation plans and ethnicity for the purposes of detecting any cultural differences that might impact the response. There were no significant differences based on the ethnicity of the respondents. 15

16 Table 14 focuses on the amount of encouragement students receive in going to college. Not surprisingly, the percentages of students who agreed or strongly agreed were higher in those students who participated in the placement testing. Table 14: Responses to the statement, "In my family, going to college is encouraged." Agree Agree Neutral % # % # % # % # % # School 42% % % 59 5% 16 4% 14 MiraCosta College 64% % 66 10% 31 2% 6 1% 4 Total 52% % % 90 3% 22 3% 18 The figures were then broken out by ethnicity (and not by survey type) to determine if there were differing levels of agreement. Given the fact that there were no significant differences by ethnicity in the previous question that dealt with parental encouragement, there was the expectation that there would be the same outcome with this question. That was not the case however. White students had higher levels of agreement than their Hispanic or African-American peers. When an analysis of variance (ANOVA) was run on these outcomes, the differences between White and Hispanic students were flagged as statistically significant. 3 3 Result was statistically significant at the α=0.05 level 16

17 Table 15: Responses to the statement, "In my family, going to college is encouraged." - By Ethnicity Agree Agree Neutral % # % # % # % # % # American Indian/Alaska Native 63% 5 13% 1 0% 0 13% 1 13% 1 Asian 59% 16 19% 5 15% 4 0% 0 7% 2 Hawaiian/Pacific Islander 50% 7 29% 4 14% 2 7% 1 0% 0 Black/African American 55% 17 19% 6 16% 5 3% 1 6% 2 Hispanic/Latino/Chicano 45% % 80 17% 48 5% 15 4% 10 Caucasian/White 57% % 61 10% 20 1% 2 0% 0 Other 69% 18 15% 4 12% 3 0% 0 4% 1 Multi-Racial 50% 23 28% 13 15% 7 2% 1 4% 2 Decline to State 79% 11 7% 1 7% 1 7% 1 0% 0 The final questions dealt directly with students perception of and experience with community colleges. Table 16: Response to the statement, "Community colleges are designed for students who aren't prepared for a college/university." Agree Agree Neutral % # % # % # % # % # School 13% 47 21% 74 24% 85 26% 92 15% 51 MiraCosta College 8% 24 25% 74 29% 85 25% 72 12% 36 Total 11% 71 23% % % % 87 More than a third of high school students surveyed believed that community colleges are designed for students who aren t prepared for a college/university. Is that positive or negative feedback? The community colleges primary purpose is to provide an education to all students. The result could be interpreted as a negative, in that less prepared students must go to the community colleges instead of a four year institution; or it could be seen as a positive, in that it is a college alternative for students who may not be ready for a four-year institution. More questions are necessary to explore whether the majority of students see community 17

18 colleges as a positive or negative entity. Students were asked whether or not it was customary for family members to attend community college. Very few students in the sample considered community college a family tradition. Table 17: Response to the statement, "It is a tradition in my family to attend community college." Agree Agree Neutral % # % # % # % # % # School 5% 17 9% 31 29% 98 31% % 88 MiraCosta College 3% 8 7% 19 26% 76 39% % 73 Total 4% 25 8% 50 28% % % 161 There was no difference between any of the groups calculated (ethnicity, seniors vs. underclassmen, collegebound vs. non-college bound, etc.) on this question. While it wasn t necessarily a tradition for most to attend community college, what percentage of students were encouraged to attend a community college as a part of their educational experience? Table 18: Response to the statement, "My family has encouraged me to attend a community college prior to attending a college/university." Agree Agree Neutral % # % # % # % # % # School 15% 50 23% 79 33% % 67 9% 32 MiraCosta College 13% 38 29% 85 33% 97 17% 49 7% 21 Total 14% 88 26% % % 116 8% 53 The results in Table 18 were somewhat surprising, especially when such a large percentage of the sample was made up of students taking steps to enroll at MiraCosta College in the fall semester. Less than half of students indicated that their families encouraged them to attend a community college prior to attending a college/university. The results were then broken out by whether or not the student intended to go to college to determine if the outcome of the previous table was impacted by responses from students not intending to further their education beyond high school. 18

19 Table 19: Response to the statement, "My family has encouraged me to attend a community college prior to attending a college/university." - College-bound students only College- Bound Students Only Agree Agree Neutral 81 15% % % 88 17% 38 7% Even when looking exclusively at students who have the intent of going to college, less than half of them indicated that their family had encouraged them to attend a community college prior to a fouryear institution. The final two questions dealt with the perceptions of community colleges by the people who play arguably the most significant roles in students lives: their family and their friends. Table 20: Response to the statement, "My friends overall attitude towards community college is positive." Agree Agree Neutral % # % # % # % # % # School 17% 57 37% % 109 9% 29 6% 20 MiraCosta College 23% 66 41% % 75 7% 20 3% 8 Total 20% % % 184 8% 49 4% 28 More than half of the students indicated that their friends overall attitude about community colleges was positive. In this response, and all of the other responses, the category of neutral or no opinion receives a significant amount of the responses. We have included them in the totals for the purposes of accuracy, however removing those responses does tell a different story: 19

20 Table 21: Students' perceptions of community colleges - neutral responses removed Agree Agree % # % # % # % # School 25% 57 54% % 29 9% 20 MiraCosta College 31% 66 55% 117 9% 20 4% 8 Total 28% % % 49 6% 28 Eighty-three percent of students believed that their friends held a positive attitude towards community colleges. Again, this figure was higher in those students who came to campus to complete the survey. Similarly, student perception of family opinions was generally positive. The biggest discrepancy came when comparisons were made between those students who completed the survey at their high school and those who came to take the survey at MiraCosta. Only three percent of MiraCosta College survey takers felt their family s perception of community colleges were negative, compared to 11% of those who completed the survey at their high school. Table 22: Response to the statement "My family's overall attitude towards community college is positive." Agree Agree Neutral % # % # % # % # % # School 25% 86 39% % 88 7% 23 4% 12 MiraCosta College 31% 90 43% % 65 2% 7 1% 2 Total 28% % % 153 5% 30 2% 14 Conclusions The results of this survey highlight some of the issues that students face regarding their post-high school lives. It is, however, an incomplete picture. The students sampled in the surveyed were largely predisposed to attending MiraCosta College and could impact the overall results. It is hoped that in the near future that a partnership between MiraCosta College and its district high schools can be formed to conduct an in-class survey drawn from a random sample of students. 20

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