Student Achievement

Children of the Recession Moving to Higher Education

By Sarah D. Sparks — June 25, 2015 2 min read
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The 2008 economic crash may have made paying for college more difficult, but the students who started high school in the teeth of the downturn are still pushing into higher education, according to new federal data.

Of the students who entered 9th grade in fall 2009, the overwhelming majority graduated and moved on to higher education in four years, according to the National Center for Education Statistics’ latest update of the 2009 High School Transcript Study, released this morning.

NCES researchers tracked 20,000 9th graders in 944 schools nationwide. They updated the survey in 2013, and will interview them again next year, when most are expected to be out of high school. The study is expected to continue until the students are at least 30, to determine how they have fared in college and the workplace.

Changes in the federal requirements for calculating graduation rates in 2008 meant that schools had to track transfer students more closely to ensure they attended another diploma-bearing school, rather than simply leaving the district and dropping out. Still, gaps remained between students at different income levels:

The 2013 update found that nearly 9 out of 10 students who started as freshmen in 2009 graduated by 2013; more than a third of students had earned Advanced Placement or International Baccalaureate credit by that time.

Path to STEM?

After high school, 73 percent of graduates were taking at least some postsecondary courses, and another 8 percent had been accepted or registered for class but had not yet started by November 2013.

The study also found that on average, students earned only 7.6 credits in science, technology, engineering, or math fields during high school. There was no difference between men and women in the overall STEM credits earned; women were slightly more likely to earn credit in math and science than men were, but men were slightly more likely to earn credit in computer science and engineering than women. Moreover, after high school, a third of men and only 14 percent of women who declared a major in college in the 2013 survey chose one in the STEM fields.

Chart: Students from different income levels who started 9th grade in fall 2009 had different rates of completing high school. Source: NCES


A version of this news article first appeared in the Inside School Research blog.