Massachusetts parents from different racial, income and education backgrounds have widely disparate information on resources and opportunities when it comes to higher education, according to a new MassINC poll.
“As state policymakers work to expand and improve postsecondary pathways for students, we must acknowledge and address the fact that there remain significant gaps in parental expectations and awareness of these pathways, especially among parents who identify as Latino/a/x and low-income,” said Jennie Williamson, director of The Education Trust in Massachusetts.
The poll, which was conducted by MassINC and released by the Education Trust in Massachusetts, surveyed a sample of 1,018 Massachusetts parents with students in grades 6 through 12 over the fall. Questions focused on post-secondary education planning, including parental knowledge, high school preparation and vocational school options.
The poll found more than half of parents say their child is interested in pursuing a bachelors degree after high school.
By demographic group, though, the percentage of parents who are White, 59%; Asian, 71%; and advanced degree-holders, 89%, skews higher.
In contrast, the percentage of parents who are Latino, 37%; low-income, 26%; and have up to a high school education, 29%, is substantially lower.
These disparities are closely reflected in metrics like parents who say they know a “great deal” or “fair amount” about the college admissions process and financial aid process. About 2/3 of all parents say they know at least a fair amount about college admissions, while just over half said the same about financial aid.
Parents broadly expressed concerns about the cost of college, with 68% concerned about tuition and 58% concerned about room and board. Half of lower-income parents also cited concerns about college applications and books costs as barriers.
The number of Latino students enrolling in college dropped from 55% enrollment in 2018-19 to 39% in 2021-2022, said Amanda Fernandez, the founder of Latinos for Education, citing the increasing cost of attending college.
“We know what to do, so we must take immediate action to address these devastating trends that, left unchecked, could have enormous consequences for students and their families for generations to come as well as for the future of our state’s economy,” said Fernandez.
Latino parents were also the least likely demographic group to say their child participated in college prep programs, at 28%, or college credit classes, at 19%. Overall, 38% of parents said their students attended college prep programs and 31% attended college credit classes.
While over 3/4 of parents said their school is preparing their child for education after high school at least “somewhat well,” only 55% said their schools offer advanced placement courses, with racial disparities for Black and Latino kids.