Campus News

Study will examine how young people make choices for post-secondary education, careers

Recent forecasts indicate that the fastest-growing and highest-paying jobs in the next 20 years will still require post-secondary education but are more likely to require two-year technical education rather than four-year college degrees.

UGA education researcher Jay W. Rojewski has received a $445,977 grant from the Institute of Education Science to study just how young people, particularly those with high-incidence disabilities, make their post-secondary educational choices and career paths.

Often, adolescents select from a very narrow and uniform pool of careers influenced by community, local school personnel and family. Sometimes, the greatest challenge to their success is the stigma society places on education that is not seen as preparing individuals for entry into a four-year college or university, said Rojewski, a professor in the College of Education’s department of workforce education, leadership and social foundations.

Making these decisions is hard for all adolescents, but even harder for students with a learning or emotional/behavior disability. Understanding predictors of post-school success for students who have high-incidence disabilities is an important and understudied issue in special education, he said.

Rojewski will examine national longitudinal databases for theoretical and outcome-oriented perspectives of career-related issues related to the transition from school to work and adult life for adolescents with selected high-incidence disabilities.

The two-year project aims to extend recent research that has indicated specific factors affecting longitudinal changes in career aspirations before and after high school, and to determine predictive links among aspirations and post-secondary educational and occupational attainment for adolescents with high-incidence disabilities.

Researchers also will explore the influence of two school-based interventions, inclusion and career-technical education, on the career aspirations of individuals with high-incidence disabilities as they prepare for post-secondary education and work.

Rojewski will first try to determine whether theory and research conducted on students without disabilities are applicable to students with high-incidence disabilities. This will provide a starting point for determining how to structure interventions and transition from school to post-secondary education and from school to work experiences.

The co-principal investigator for the project is Noel Gregg, associate dean for research and a UGA Distinguished Research Professor in special education.