A new Pew Research Center poll goes deep on parents’ hopes and fears for their children. It’s no surprise that nearly everyone wants their children to be financially independent and have jobs and careers they enjoy.
Parents diverge, however, on how much they worry about the obstacles and dangers their children will face along the way — and on what role they believe education plays in helping them achieve their goals.
I’m writing this in the aftermath of two events that can only heighten parent fears. The shooting of a Denver East High School student right outside school on Monday and the tragic Michigan State University shooting are yet another reminder of the gun violence that’s continued to plague our society.
These shootings violate the idea that parents should be able to send their children to school and see them come home safely. These are fears not shared equally. Pew found that 42% of Hispanic parents and 32% of Black parents worry about their child being shot. So do nearly a quarter of Asian American parents — but just 12% of white parents.
That’s just one of many differences among parents of different racial and ethnic backgrounds — including how important parents think college is.
The poll finds 7 in 10 Asian parents place a high degree of importance on their children earning a college degree. About half of all Hispanic and Black parents say the same. Meanwhile, just 29% of white parents say it’s extremely or very important that their kids earn a college degree.
The opinion poll doesn’t ask parents why they feel that way. When it comes to who gets to college and doesn’t in Colorado, the patterns don’t match parent opinions, as schools enroll more white students. I am positive there’s more at play here, including where those parents live, their socioeconomic status, and how they view their children’s prospects with or without a degree.
This poll also reminds me that I should be asking parents these types of questions. I will start here.
Parents, tell me about your opinion of your child going to college. How important is this to you? Why or why not? What college or training option feels the most open? What challenges do you see? How worried are you about going into debt for tuition? Or whether your child will still share your values when they come back?
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Jason Gonzales is a reporter covering higher education and the Colorado legislature. Chalkbeat Colorado partners with Open Campus on higher education coverage. Contact Jason at firstname.lastname@example.org.