Academic journal article Career Development Quarterly

Financial Planning Strategies of High School Seniors: Removing Barriers to Career Success

Academic journal article Career Development Quarterly

Financial Planning Strategies of High School Seniors: Removing Barriers to Career Success

Article excerpt

This study explored the postsecondary financial planning of graduating 12th graders as a barrier to educational and career decision making and success. Seniors planning on pursuing postsecondary education (N = 744) from 16 high schools completed an online survey measuring their plans for financing their postsecondary education. They also provided information regarding their academic achievement, motivation, certainty, and postsecondary goals and plans. Students clustered into 4 distinct financial planning strategy groups. These financial planning clusters were evident across a diverse sample of high schools. Almost half of all graduating 12th graders had limited financial planning strategies. Groupings and strategies employed by students were significantly related to career development theory and research. The critical role for career development services in promoting student success is discussed.

Keywords: financial planning, college and career readiness, postsecondary transition, barriers, supports

The cost of postsecondary education has risen sharply, making it one of the most important challenges to the college and career decision-making process for students and their families. The National Center for Education Statistics (NCES, 2012) reported that between the 2000-2001 and 2010-2011 academic years, the prices for undergraduate tuition and room and board increased 42% at public institutions and 31% at private not-for-profit institutions-after adjustment for inflation. Since 2008, Sallie Mae (2012) has conducted annual surveys of college students and their parents that focus on the types of funding sources utilized (e.g., family savings plans, scholarships, loans), the actual amount associated with each funding type, and the college decision-making process. In the 2011-2012 academic year, 69% of students reported eliminating a college they were accepted to because of cost-a figure that has increased annually since 2009, when 56% of students reported eliminating a college they were accepted to because of cost. This reality is being felt and responded to by students across the socioeconomic spectrum. For example, there has been an increase in students from families that earn more than $100,000 a year who are deciding to live at home while attending college as a cost-saving measure-from 24% in 2010 to 47% in 2012 (Sallie Mae, 2012).

The financing of postsecondary education as a barrier to educational and career success has become a focus for career development theory and research. For example, Lent (2013a) argued that one of the most useful aspects of social cognitive career theory (SCCT) is that it can be employed to help people develop the "career-life preparedness" skills necessary to minimize barriers and strengthen supports for educational and career attainment. Financing postsecondary education is, in the SCCT choice model, one of the most challenging proximal environmental influences affecting the setting and implementation of career choice goals (Lent, 2013b).

Previous and emerging research support this emphasis on finances as a major impediment to the career choices and success of college students (Lent, Brown, Talleyrand, & McPartland, 2002), including career choices in science, technology, engineering, and math (Fouad et al., 2010). McWhirter and her colleagues have consistently identified funding for postsecondary education (e.g., loans, financial aid, and scholarships) as one of the most critical barriers to career success, especially for minority women (McWhirter, Torres, Salgado, & Valdez, 2007) and lower income and underrepresented Latina/o youth (McWhirter, Luginbuhl, & Brown, 2014). Furthermore, a lack of financial planning and preparedness has been linked to greater rates of dropping out of college (Ishitani & DesJardins, 2002). Students with greater financial need are less likely to persist at their chosen schools (Wessel, Bell, McPherson, Costello, & Jones, 2006), and the difference between what the financial aid students expect to receive versus what they actually receive shapes college choice, access, and success (Kim, DesJardins, & McCall, 2009). …

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