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High School Benchmarks Report: High Poverty and Minority Levels Lead to Large Gaps in College Enrollment and Completion Rates

Six-year STEM Completion Rates Particularly Low among Graduates of Low Income High Schools

HERNDON, VA., OCT. 15, 2015 – The National Student Clearinghouse® Research Center™ today released their third annual national report offering benchmarks for high schools to compare their graduates’ college transition rates nationwide, including those serving low income and minority students. The High School Benchmarks Report: National College Progression Rates covers public and private high schools from all 50 states and from the majority of the 100 largest districts in the U.S., with nearly 4 million high school graduates or 24 to 30 percent of all public high school graduates for each year included in the report.

Students from low income high schools are less likely to attend four-year colleges compared to graduates from higher income high schools, regardless of location or minority enrollment, based on data reported to the National Student Clearinghouse® by participants in its StudentTracker® for High Schools educational research service. College completion rates are also notably higher for graduates of higher income high schools, ranging from 32 to 50 percent compared to 22 to 32 percent for low income high schools. The report presents postsecondary outcomes for the high school graduating classes of 2008 and from 2011 through 2014.

This year’s report also includes postsecondary outcomes for graduates from a subset of low income schools defined as high-poverty schools. These are schools where at least 75 percent of the students are eligible for free or reduced price lunch. College enrollment and completion gaps for graduates of these schools are even larger.

The minority level of the school appears to be a particularly strong contributing factor among low poverty, urban high schools. Students from low minority schools in this category completed college at a rate of 22 percentage points higher than students from high minority schools (51 and 29 percent, respectively). This gap mostly comes from the difference in four-year institution completion rates (43 and 23 percent, respectively).

Only six percent of graduates from low income, high minority urban schools completed a STEM degree within six years, despite the well-documented economic benefits of earning a STEM credential. This is barely one-third the rate for graduates from higher income, low minority urban and suburban schools (17 and 16 percent, respectively). STEM completion rates are included for the first time in this year’s report because of the National Student Clearinghouse’s commitment to the White House Science, Technology, Engineering & Mathematics (STEM) initiatives.

“This year’s data on college access, persistence, and completion provides invaluable benchmarks for high schools and districts using StudentTracker reports,” said Dr. Doug Shapiro, executive research director, National Student Clearinghouse Research Center. “These timely results enable practitioners and policymakers to track their progress in addressing the persistent and pressing gaps in how our high schools are preparing graduates for success in college.”

Additional report findings include:

  • Among low income public schools, college enrollment rates in the first fall after graduation in 2014 ranged from 44 percent for low minority rural schools to 58 percent for low minority urban schools.
  • Students from higher income, low minority suburban schools had the highest college enrollment rate among public, non-charter schools: 74 percent of graduates enrolled immediately after high school graduation.
  • Students from low income schools are 10 to 20 percentage points less likely to enroll in college immediately after graduating from high school, regardless of location or level of minority enrollment.
  • Students from low income high schools are 10 to 20 percentage points less likely to attend four-year colleges than students from higher income high schools. First fall enrollment rates at four-year colleges ranged from 27 to 32 percent for graduates from low income high schools and from 35 to 51 percent for those from higher income high schools.
  • High poverty levels (at least 75 percent of students eligible for free or reduced price lunch) led to even larger gaps in college enrollment rates. A 30 percentage point difference exists between high and low poverty high schools in the low minority suburban category.
  • Only 22 percent of high school graduates from low income, high minority urban schools graduated from college within six years, well under half the rates for higher income, low minority urban and suburban schools (47 and 50 percent, respectively).
  • More than 40 percent of graduates from higher income, low minority schools completed college within six years later, regardless of school locale.

About the National Student Clearinghouse® Research Center
The National Student Clearinghouse Research Center is the research arm of the National Student Clearinghouse. The Research Center collaborates with higher education institutions, states, school districts, high schools, and educational organizations as part of a national effort to better inform education leaders and policymakers. Through accurate longitudinal data outcomes reporting, the Research Center enables better educational policy decisions leading to improved student outcomes.

To learn more, visit http://research.studentclearinghouse.org.

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