>>> John Matlock <[log in to unmask]> 4/18/2007 5:43 AM >>>

Detroit News
April 17, 2007

More Michigan parents see college as essential
Jennifer Mrozowski and Mike Wilkinson / The Detroit News
As Michigan reels from an eroding industrial job base, parents are 
getting the message: their children's success depends more than ever 
on higher education.
Fifty-nine percent of Michigan parents said everyone should get a 
degree, compared to 54 percent in 2005, according to a Detroit 
News/Channel 7 poll of 600 people released Tuesday.
Less certain is whether parents will ensure their children get a 
higher education. More than half said they'd encourage their kids to 
go to college, but leave the choice up to them. Just 37 percent say 
their children will definitely attend.
"The desire is there, but not the commitment," said pollster Ed 
Sarpolus of EPIC-MRA.
The poll measures public attitudes at what community leaders say is a 
critical time. The state must prepare for the high-tech jobs of the 
future, they say, which means changing long-held attitudes about 
education for a work force that's accustomed to high-paying jobs with 
minimal schooling.
Among the other findings of the poll, conducted April 2-12 by 
EPIC-MRA and sponsored by Your Child and the Skillman Foundation:

Nine percent of parents want their children to consider jobs in 
health care -- one of the fastest growing areas of the local economy 
-- compared to none in the last survey.

Parents' confidence in the state educational system's ability to 
teach their kids has declined by six points.

More parents are taking action on that lack of confidence: According 
to the survey, supported by state education statistics, more are 
turning to charter schools -- or even their own kitchen tables as 
they home-school their children.

The poll has a margin of error of 4 percentage points.
"It's clear that parents believe their children's education is more 
important than ever," said Mike Flanagan, state superintendent of 
public instruction. "More people believe their children should take 
harder, more challenging, courses and need more than a high school 
diploma to earn a decent living."
With parents fretting about whether their children will have the 
opportunities for success, experts say the changing attitudes reflect 
a hopeful trend for a state that ranks below average in the 
percentage of adults with a college degree.
Deidra Highbaugh said she moved her children from a Detroit public 
school to Detroit Edison Public School Academy, a charter school, 
because she believed the charter would do a better job of preparing 
her children for college, which is something she and her husband 
expect of their kids.
"It's not that I don't want them to make their own choices," 
Highbaugh said. "But they have to have a college education if they 
are going to make it as adults and enjoy their lives."
Laura Perna, an associate professor of higher education at the 
University of Pennsylvania, cautioned that the apparent swell of 
support for college could also be a reflection of the faltering 
economy -- attending college becomes more common when job 
opportunities narrow, she said. But overall, she said it could bode 
well, since research has shown that parental involvement and 
encouragement lead to higher college attendance rates.
"I think it's good news that parental attitudes are improving toward 
higher education," she said.
But it also takes money and solid academic preparation to get to 
college, Perna said. For parents who didn't go to college, it 
requires more effort to navigate what may be a foreign world.
"The onus is really on parents to bridge that gap and it can be 
difficult when they don't have the first-hand knowledge and 
experience with higher education themselves," she said.
You can reach Jennifer Mrozowski at (313) 222-2269 or
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Watch it
Detroit Regional Chamber, the DTE Energy Foundation, WXYZ (Channel 7) 
and The Detroit News are sponsoring a live town hall meeting on 
education to air 8-9 p.m. Thursday on Channel 7. Panelists will 
discuss the importance of a high-quality education in the 
knowledge-based economy.