College & Workforce Readiness

High School Poverty, Minority Enrollment, Undermine College Progress, Study Finds

By Catherine Gewertz — October 27, 2016 2 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

Students who attend high-poverty schools or schools with high minority enrollments are far less likely to enroll in college, and less likely to complete degrees than their more advantaged peers, according to a new set of data released Thursday.

The fourth annual “High School Benchmarks” report from the National Student Clearinghouse offers numbers and charts for what most educators already know about how concentrations of disadvantage influence educational outcomes.

The findings examined a huge pool of students: 5 million, more than one-quarter of all graduating high school seniors each year. But it was drawn from a voluntary sample: schools that pay about $425 to participate in the Clearinghouse’s Student Tracker system. That participation allows schools to put their students’ progression into a national context. But the participants skew toward urban schools with higher minority and low-income populations.

The National Student Clearinghouse analyzed student outcomes by the level of minority enrollment, and by their schools’ location (urban, suburban, rural), but it looks in particular at how concentrations of poverty affect those outcomes. That allows you to see the differing impact of schools where at least half the students are eligible for free or reduced-price lunch (“low-income schools”) and those where at least 75 percent qualify for that benefit (“high poverty” schools).

Here’s how those factors affect college enrollment rates the fall after students graduate from public, non-charter high schools:

Students from high-poverty, higher-minority and lower-income schools who enrolled in college were less likely to stick around for the second year, compared with those from lower-minority and wealthier schools, too.

The outlook gets grimmer six years after high school graduation. By then, only 18 percent of the students from schools with the highest concentrations of poverty finish college, compared with 52 percent of those from schools with the lowest concentrations of poverty. (These figures reflect the completion rates of all students, not just those who went on to college.)

The report also examines the rate of completion of college degrees in STEM fields, and finds that students from schools with higher concentrations of poverty or racial minorities are less likely to complete such degrees than their peers from wealthier, lower-minority schools.

Get High School & Beyond posts delivered to your inbox as soon as they’re published. Sign up here. Also, for news and analysis of issues that shape adolescents’ preparation for work and higher education.

A version of this news article first appeared in the High School & Beyond blog.

Commenting has been disabled on effective Sept. 8. Please visit our FAQ section for more details. To get in touch with us visit our contact page, follow us on social media, or submit a Letter to the Editor.


This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Teaching Webinar
What’s Next for Teaching and Learning? Key Trends for the New School Year
The past 18 months changed the face of education forever, leaving teachers, students, and families to adapt to unprecedented challenges in teaching and learning. As we enter the third school year affected by the pandemic—and
Content provided by Instructure
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Curriculum Webinar
How Data and Digital Curriculum Can Drive Personalized Instruction
As we return from an abnormal year, it’s an educator’s top priority to make sure the lessons learned under adversity positively impact students during the new school year. Digital curriculum has emerged from the pandemic
Content provided by Kiddom
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Equity & Diversity Webinar
Leadership for Racial Equity in Schools and Beyond
While the COVID-19 pandemic continues to reveal systemic racial disparities in educational opportunity, there are revelations to which we can and must respond. Through conscientious efforts, using an intentional focus on race, school leaders can
Content provided by Corwin

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

College & Workforce Readiness Opinion What Will It Take to Get High School Students Back on Track?
Three proven strategies can support high school graduation and postsecondary success—during and after the pandemic.
Robert Balfanz
5 min read
Conceptual illustration of students making choices based on guidance.
Viktoria Kurpas/iStock
College & Workforce Readiness Opinion An Economist Explains How to Make College Pay
Rick Hess speaks with Beth Akers about practical advice regarding how to choose a college, what to study, and how to pay for it.
6 min read
Image shows a multi-tailed arrow hitting the bullseye of a target.
DigitalVision Vectors/Getty
College & Workforce Readiness What the Research Says College Enrollment Dip Hits Students of Color the Hardest
The pandemic led to a precipitous decline in enrollment for two-year schools, while four-year colleges and universities held steady.
3 min read
Conceptual image of blocks moving forward, and one moving backward.
College & Workforce Readiness Letter to the Editor How We Can Improve College-Completion Rates
Early- and middle-college high schools have the potential to improve college completion rates, says this letter to the editor.
1 min read