High schools with a larger number of low-income students had lower college enrollment rates than schools with mostly higher-income students, regardless of the number of minority students or where the schools were located, finds a new report from the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center. And, once enrolled in college, students from low-income high schools were less likely to persist to their sophomore year. The report, High School Benchmarks Report: National College Progression Rates, provides high school–to-college transition rates for public high school graduates for the Class of 2010 through the Class of 2012.
“This report underscores our need to fully realize that the biggest factor limiting the academic success of our students is poverty,” said Daniel A. Domenech, executive director of AASA, the School Superintendents Association. “[The report] should signal a call to action to educate the total child—all aspects of child development—in order to transform America’s school systems so more students enter college. It’s up to our political, community, and business leaders to help close the achievement gap, which unfortunately begins before children ever come to school.”
As shown in the graph below, only half of students attending low-income rural high schools enrolled in college (two- or four-year institutions) in the fall immediately following their high school graduation—the lowest of six types of high schools profiled in the report. Students from higher-income, low-minority urban high schools (70 percent) were most likely to transition immediately to college with no gap after high school graduation, followed by students from higher-income rural high schools (65 percent).1
Students from low-income, rural high schools (28 percent) were also the least likely to enroll in a four-year institution in the fall after high school graduation, followed by students from low-income, high-minority urban high schools (30 percent) and low-income, low-minority urban schools (30 percent). Students from higher-income, low-minority high schools (48 percent) were most likely to enroll in four-year institutions. The inverse was true for two-year institutions, with students from low-income high schools more likely to enroll than students from higher-income high schools, the report finds.
The report also examines persistence rates from the first to second year of college for the Class of 2010. Overall, at least 79 percent of students from all of the six types of high schools studied made it to their second year, but students from higher-income high schools fared better than their peers from low-income high schools. As shown in the graph below, 88 percent of students from higher-income, low-minority urban high schools made it to their sophomore year of college, compared to only 79 percent of students from low-income rural schools.
The data in the report comes from the high schools that participated in the StudentTracker for High Schools service administered by the National Student Clearinghouse. The report cautions that the data does not comprise a nationally representative sample of high schools or high school graduates. However, the data is a “large and broad” sample that covers about one-quarter of all U.S. high school graduates from all fifty states and more than 15 percent of U.S. high schools. Participating high schools pay an annual fee of $425 to receive three reports during the year detailing the postsecondary access and success outcomes for up to eight cohorts of their graduating classes.
“This report fills in knowledge gaps at a time when there is increased focus on the transition from secondary to postsecondary education,” said Dr. Doug Shapiro, executive director of the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center. “For the first time, high schools can compare their own graduates’ college enrollment rates with those for similar high schools. As this report will be repeated annually, it will help high schools to learn what works for improving college access for their students.”
The complete report is available at http://nscresearchcenter.org/wp-content/uploads/HighSchoolBenchmarks2013.pdf.
1 In the report, low-income schools are defined as schools in which at least 50 percent of the students are eligible for free or reduced-price lunch. Minority schools are defined as schools in which at least 40 percent of the students are black or Hispanic. Urban/rural is defined by the National Center for Education Statistics urban centric locale code; city, suburb, and town schools are defined as urban and schools in rural areas are defined as rural.