Student journalists at USA Today College do an excellent job of highlighting topics sometimes missed by traditional media.

A good example is an article by University of Michigan student Tanaz Ahmed identifying the link between parent incomes and college student majors.

His article reports that “Students from higher-income families tend to pursue majors in English and history, Kim Weeden, a sociologist from Cornell University found after analyzing data from the National Center for Education Statistics. According to the data, students from lower-income households choose to pursue associate’s degrees or major in areas such as law enforcement.”

Weeden completed analysis from the National Center for Education Statistics and include data from approximately 12,000 students starting from when they were 10th graders in 2002 and ending in 2012, after they became college graduates.


Her research identified three factors influence the majors chosen by young adults from lower socioeconomic backgrounds.

  1. Students from lower-income households, for one, tend to attend schools with less funding for the arts and humanities.   “If you go to a high school where there’s no more music programs, no more arts programs and you can’t afford to buy a trombone to practice with, then you’re probably not going to major in music when you get to college,” says Weeden.
  2. Risks are also taken into consideration. Weeden says students with lower economic statuses tend to major in subjects with more job availabilities. “Majoring in something like performing arts or something in the humanities may be riskier in terms of job opportunities,” says Weeden. “At least students think that it’s riskier in terms of later job opportunities and because of that, it’s going to be the students who have a financial cushion to fall back on if they don’t immediately have a job who are going to be more likely to choose those particular majors.”
  3. She has also noticed a connection between students who pursue undergraduate liberal arts degrees and those from wealthier backgrounds who may be more likely to pursue graduate degrees.

At College Parents of America, we aim to help identify these issues so college officials and policy makers can design alternative paths for all families regardless of their background.  We assert that education is a public good, not just a private benefit and as such do our best to bring attention to timely topics such as the good work by USA Today College.