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Status of Education in Rural America
NCES 2007-040
June 2007

1.15. Parental expectations of educational attainment


While a larger percentage of high school students in all locales in 2003 had parents who expected their child's highest educational attainment to be a bachelor's degree than any other level of attainment, a greater proportion of rural students than students in cities and suburbs had parents who expected their child's highest attainment to be less than a bachelor's degree.

In 2003, the National Household Education Survey (NHES) asked parents of elementary and secondary public and private school students about their educational expectations for their children. Nationally, a larger percentage of students had parents who reported that they expected their child's highest level of educational attainment to be a bachelor's degree (39 percent) than the percentage of students whose parents reported that they expected their child's highest level of educational attainment to be a graduate or professional degree (30 percent), completion of 2 or more years of college (16 percent), a high school diploma (8 percent), and attendance at a vocational or technical school after high school (7 percent) (table 1.15). Less than one percent of students in all locales had parents who expected their child to receive less than a high school diploma. In rural areas, the ranking of parental expectations mirrored the national rates: the largest percentage of students had parents who expected their child to complete a bachelor's degree (37 percent), followed by a graduate or professional degree (21 percent), 2 years or more of college (20 percent), a high school diploma (11 percent), and attendance at a vocational or technical school (10 percent).

There were no measurable differences between the percentage of rural students with parents expecting their child's highest attainment to be a bachelor's degree (37 percent) and the percentages of students with parents having similar expectations in cities (36 percent) and towns (39 percent); however, the percentage of rural students having parents with such expectations was lower than the percentage of suburban students (37 vs. 41 percent) (figure 1.15). A smaller percentage of rural students also had parents who reported expecting their child to earn a graduate or professional degree as their highest level of attainment (21 percent) than students in cities or suburban areas (both 34 percent). As with all other levels of parental educational expectations, no measurable differences were found in the percentages of students in rural areas and towns with parents who expected their child to attain a graduate or professional degree.

A greater percentage of students in rural areas had parents who reported expecting their child to complete high school as their highest level of educational attainment (11 percent) than students in cities (8 percent) or suburban areas (5 percent). This pattern was also true among students with parents who reported expecting their child's highest attainment to be 2 or more years of college (20 percent for rural vs. 15 and 13 percent for cities and suburban areas, respectively) or attendance at a vocational or technical school (10 percent vs. 7 and 6 percent, respectively).

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