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Blog Post · May 10, 2022

Most Parents Hope Their Kids Will Go to College, but Costs Are a Concern

photo - Young Daughter Reading to Parents

Governor Newsom has established a statewide goal that 70% of working-age Californians will have a college degree or certificate by 2030. To achieve this, the governor recently proposed multi-year investments aimed at increasing overall enrollment and closing equity gaps in access and completion—a proposal that is now in the hands of the state legislature. According to the most recent PPIC Statewide Survey, overwhelming majorities of parents want their children to get a college degree, even as many express concerns about the cost of a college education. Among parents with lower incomes and lower educational attainment, shares saying that they are “very worried” about college costs have increased notably since last year.

Most California parents and public school parents hope that their youngest child will earn at least a four-year college degree, with four in ten or more hoping that their child will obtain a graduate degree (44% all parents, 39% public school parents). Fewer than two in ten hope their child’s highest level of education will be a two-year community college degree or career technical training (17% all parents, 19% public school parents). These findings are similar to what we found last year.

Parents with higher education levels have greater aspirations for their children’s educational achievement. Nearly all parents with college degrees hope their child will obtain at least a four-year degree, including 58% who hope their child will earn a graduate degree. Nearly half of parents with some college (49%) and fewer parents with a high school education only (31%) hope their child will get a graduate degree.

In addition, parents making $60,000 or more annually are more likely than those with lower incomes to hope their child will earn a four-year degree (33% vs. 25%) or a graduate degree (49% vs. 38%).

While many parents have high hopes for their children’s educational attainment, most are also worried about being able to afford a college education for their kids. When asked to think of their youngest child, at least three in four parents and public school parents are worried about college affordability. Among both parent groups, the shares saying that they are at least somewhat worried have remained similar to a year ago.

Though concerns about affordability are widespread today, parents with a high school education only (53%) are much more likely to say they are very worried, compared to parents with some college experience (35%) or a bachelor’s degree (18%). Among parents with at most a high school education, the share saying they are very worried has increased 12 percentage points since last year, while among college-graduate parents, this share has declined 5 points. For parents with some college, findings are similar to last year.

Parents with annual incomes of less than $60,000 are more than twice as likely to say they are very worried about college affordability, compared to those with higher incomes (54% vs. 25%). Notably, the share of parents with lower incomes saying they are very worried has increased by 9 percentage points since last year, while findings among parents with higher incomes are similar to a year ago.

As the state thinks about ways to broaden access to college and ease the burden of college costs, the PPIC Statewide Survey will continue to monitor parents’ educational aspirations for their children and track views on the affordability of higher education.


Access Affordability California State Legislature Completion enrollment Equity Gavin Newsom Higher Education K–12 Education parents Statewide Survey