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Survey: More parents pursuing college degrees, talking to children about higher education

Enhanced earning potential and more career opportunities are two of the many benefits of earning an advanced degree. Now, many mothers and fathers in America have discovered another benefit of going back to school – it is a great parenting tool. Parents are considering higher education not only to help them get ahead in the workplace, but also as a way to set a positive example for their children, according to a recent survey from University of Phoenix.

“I had considered returning to school for some time,” says Janet O’Neal, a production supervisor with an international manufacturing company in Sheridan, Ark. “For me, the decision to earn a bachelor’s degree in business management wasn’t just about advancing my career. My daughters were a huge motivation. I wanted to set a good example for them of how important higher education is.”

O’Neal’s motivation appears to be increasingly common. Parents are twice as likely to go back to school as non-parents, according to the survey, and 46 percent of parents who have plans to head back to school will do so to make their families proud. Eighty-one percent of the parents also said they believe a degree is important in today’s job market.

If parents are considering returning to school, here are a few simple ways to help ensure a rewarding experience for them and their children:   

1. Talk to children early – Parents often start saving for a child’s college education when that child is still in elementary school. Why not start talking to them about the importance of higher education at the same time? More teachers are incorporating real-world applications and hands-on learning into their lesson plans, making it even easier for parents to talk to their children about what they are learning.

2. Illustrate education as the path to a career – It is important for children to understand how education can have an impact on their career prospects as adults. Identify learning projects that can help children explore careers and understand how their education can apply to different types of professions.

3. Make education a family affair – Establishing a family study time is a great way for parents and children to connect over a common goal. Seeing a parent display dedication to studying and earning a degree helps children understand the importance of developing a work ethic and setting priorities.

4. Involve other key individuals in the decision, including children – Parents balancing family, work and school obligations can benefit from discussing their educational goals and commitments with influencers in their lives, including employers, friends and family members. This support network can help a parent stay on track with classwork, studying and deadlines. Moreover, children in middle and high school may actually have insights into studying and test preparation that are novel to a parent who has been out of the classroom for some time.

“It is never too early for children and never too late for parents to realize the importance of a post-secondary education,” says Dr. Meredith Curley, dean of the College of Education at University of Phoenix. “Parents who choose to pursue higher education, not only improve their own career opportunities, they model important behaviors such as work ethic and a commitment to learning for their children.”

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