Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Educational Leadership - Higher Education

Committee Member

Dr. Robert Knoeppel, Committee Chair

Committee Member

Dr. Russell Marion

Committee Member

Dr. Michelle L. Boettcher

Committee Member

Dr. Ted Mitchell


The purpose of the following paper is to utilize multinomial regression to study the effect of various demographic and family characteristic variables on both the parental expectations of future postsecondary degree attainment and the parental estimates of college costs. I also explore the effect of college cost estimates as a mediating factor on the parents' expectation of the students' degree attainment. There is significant existing research on college costs, affordability, financial aid, and educational attainment for the various demographic factors found in this study. The missing piece in both the literature and overall understanding of the problem lies in the views of parents, who, in addition to guidance counselors, are the resources that students look to the most for advice on whether or not to attend college. The nationally representative dataset for the study is the Department of Education's High School Longitudinal Study of 2009. Its data consists of survey answers from a sample population of high school freshmen from 2009, their parents, and their high school guidance counselors. All of the demographic and family characteristics variables were found to have a significant effect on a parent's expectation for his or her child's postsecondary accomplishments, with socioeconomic status, sex, first-generation status, and race being the most significant predictors. These same variables, with the exception of sex, were also found to be the most significant predictors for the parental estimate of tuition. There proved to be a mediating effect of tuition estimate on the parental postsecondary expectation variable, but the effect size was minimal. The results of this study highlight that there has not been enough progress made in making postsecondary education available to everyone equally. There remain significant deficiencies in the college-going and completion rates for the students who are from the lowest socioeconomic classes, and none of our federal government, state government, or the colleges and universities have done enough to close the gap. More must be done, and the results of this study suggest that targeting those efforts on parents and guidance counselors might be an effective route to close that gap.



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