09 August 2019

Career construction, future work and the perceived risks of going to university for young people from low SES backgrounds: NCSEHE Research Fellowship final report

The research examined the relationships between perceived risk and university participation for low socioeconomic status (SES) students. The study identified 10 types of risk that people from low SES backgrounds perceived as being associated with the decision to go (or not to go) to university. These included financial risks; social and psychological risks; and risks impacting career advancement (for example, forgoing alternative opportunities and committing extended periods of time to a degree with no guarantee of employment). The study found low SES high school students responded in three different ways to the decision of whether or not to attend university. When faced with uncertainty, students may shortcut the decision-making process; postpone or avoid making a decision; or engage in ‘satisficing’, where trade-offs are made to arrive at a ‘good enough’ solution. Risk tolerance was identified as a characteristic influencing students’ responses to decision dilemmas.