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Gong and Toutkoushian Research Degree Expectations among High School Students

Gong and Toutkoushian Research

by Jewel Caruso

An article by Hee Jung Gong (PhD 2021) and Robert Toutkoushian, McBee associate director, appears in the Educational Policy January 2024 issue. Their article, titled "High School Students' Expectations and College Aspirations: Causes and Consequences," explores the factors that influence high school students' educational aspirations and expectations and the impact on student enrollment in postsecondary institutions. 

The authors provide new insights on why high school students, who want to earn a bachelor's degree, do not expect to be successful in achieving their postsecondary goals. Gong and Toutkoushian focused on the influence of factors; these included support networks, school performance, and broader social contexts on a student's expectations. 

They cite research from the US Census Bureau that found that the percentage of the population 18 and over with a postsecondary degree increased from 24% to 41% between 2001 and 2017. The growth rate is still below the 60% advised by Complete College America and the Lumina Foundation. Within Gong and Toutkoushian's research, they found one in six high school students with college aspirations did not believe they would earn a bachelor's degree. This doubt led to fewer matriculants. 

Gong and Toutkoushian identified relationships between students' expectations of parental education and family income. In addition, grades had a strong association with students' expectations of enrolling in college. They noted students' expectations varied by race and by geographic location and students in the public education system were more likely to experience low expectations, even if they were college aspirants. Students who were surrounded by "more academically prepared peers" were more likely to search for college information and enroll in four-year institutions.

In conclusion, Gong and Toutkoushian provide a more comprehensive understanding of the factors that influence high school students' educational aspirations and expectations. The findings of this study have important implications for educational policy and practice, as they can inform effects to promote college access and success for all students.

View the full article here

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