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Missouri Students and the Pathways to College

by Watson Scott Swail & Sarah HosfordPathways


VIRGINIA BEACH, VA - November 28, 2007 - The Educational Policy Institute today released a research report documenting the educational aspirations of Missouri middle and high school students. The data from this study were collected from over 30 focus groups across the state of 7th, 9th, and 11th grade students.


The study looked at career aspirations, students perceptions of college, importance people (or influencers) to college, barriers to college. The study concludes with recommendations for public policy and practice.

Findings from the study include:


  • Overall, the top ten professions named by the students were: professional athlete, lawyer, pediatrician, teacher, nurse, cosmetologist, doctor, entrepreneur, chef and veterinarian.
  • Students, even at an early age, clearly understand that many well-paying jobs require a college degree. However, the Missouri students provided evidence that just as career goals change over time, so do postsecondary educational aspirations.
  • Perhaps due to the entertainment industry, news reports, or information from family and friends, students listed parties and money more often than other reasons for attending college, regardless of grade level. Career and education are also mentioned near the top.
  • With regard to influences about college, all groups surveyed in the project listed parents, siblings, and other family as the top influencers. Friends and teachers were also seen as important, as were church members, boyfriends/girlfriends, counselors, and various people in the community.
  • Barriers to college identified by students included “money” and “grades” were top ranked, as well as “babies.” Others included such as “selfconfidence” and “afraid of change” are areas that are a cause for concern, but also areas that can be improved with proper intervention.


The report concluded with the following recommendations for action:


  • RECOMMENDATION 1. Ensure that all Missouri middle and high school students have the information needed to make prudent decisions about their future.
  • RECOMMENDATION 2. Improve the amount and quality of career counseling made available to Missouri middle and high school students.
  • RECOMMENDATION 3. Develop a “Career and College Club.”
  • RECOMMENDATION 4. Develop a “College Coach” program.
  • RECOMMENDATION 5. Create a Regional Educational Opportunity Partnership (REAP).
  • RECOMMENDATION 6. Conduct research on “what works” in Missouri.
  • RECOMMENDATION 7. Evaluate all activities for impact toward educational goals.


The original focus group research for the this project was conducted by the Change and Innovation Agency in Jefferson City, MO. The study was underwritten by an anonymous Missouri-based non-profit organization.

The full report is available for free download by clicking here.


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The Educational Policy Institute is a non-profit research center focused in issues of educational opportunity, especially for our most needy populations. Based in Virginia Beach with offices in Toronto and Melbourne, EPI conducts program evaluation, policy analysis, and conducts professional development opportunities for educational professionals throughout the education continuum. Visit the EPI website at