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VSAC Senior Survey Reveals Students Need a Wider Range of Post-High School Planning Opportunities

Research recently completed by VSAC illustrates the lasting impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on students and families.

WINOOSKI, VT, December 12, 2023 – Research recently completed by VSAC illustrates the lasting impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on students and families, as well as a trend toward career-focused training after high school.

VSAC surveys high school seniors in Vermont every two years about their plans to pursue college or training after high school. The most recent data, from the class of 2022, provides insight to students’ college or training plans through two different lenses: students’ gender and parent educational attainment.

The report compares data from the Class of 2022 to the Classes of 2018, and the originally surveyed Class of 2012. The Class of 2022 began high school in the fall of 2018, before the start of the COVID pandemic; they were enrolled during the height of the pandemic and graduated while the pandemic was still ongoing. The data reveals continued changes in students’ aspirations from over a decade ago, as well as from the most recent pre-pandemic class.

The survey identifies three important trends within the Vermont education landscape.

1)    A significant decline overall in students’ intentions to pursue additional training or education after high school compared to prior years. 
For the Class of 2022, 70% of high school seniors reported that they would continue their education after high school. This is significantly lower than in 2012 and 2018, when about 75% of the classes reported that they would continue education immediately after high school.

2)    A widening of the gap in aspiration by both gender and parent education attainment since 2018. There has been a consistent and sizable gap over time in aspiration between students who parents did not attain a four-year degree (first generation students), and students who have one parent who attained a four-year degree (second generation students), as well as students who identify as male and students who identify as female.
For the Class of 2022 there was a 24-percentage point difference in aspiration rates between first- and second-generation high school seniors, the widest gap in the past decade.

As with previous cohorts, first-generation male students in the Class of 2022 had the lowest aspiration rate of all students. They showed the steepest decline in aspiration since 2018—45% of first-generation male students planned to continue their studies in the fall of 2022, down from 58% in 2018.

3)    A decline in the percentage of students reporting that their parents wished for them to continue their education. This decline differs significantly by gender and parent educational attainment and over time.
The percentage of students that reported they felt their parents wanted them to continue their education declined significantly from 60% in 2018 to 51% in 2022. The percentage who reported their parents wanted them to work or that their parents would support whatever they wanted to do increased significantly over that same period.

Scott Giles, VSAC President and CEO, noted “The majority of Vermont’s high demand, high wage jobs require some form of education or training after high school. Our charge is to work with our partners across the state to make these opportunities as simple and as accessible as possible. VSAC’s new workforce grants and forgivable loan programs, and free community college through 802Opportunity, create exciting new opportunities for students who are on the fence about their futures.”

The full Research Brief of the Vermont High School Class of 2022 is available on the VSAC website.


Vermont Student Assistance Corporation is a public, nonprofit agency established by the Vermont Legislature in 1965 to help Vermonters achieve their education and training goals after high school. VSAC serves students and their families in grades 7-12, as well as adults returning to school, by providing education and career planning services, need-based grants, scholarships, and education loans. VSAC awards millions of dollars in grants and scholarships for Vermont students and administers Vermont’s VT529 savings plan. Find us at or check out Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, and Twitter.