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College & Workforce Readiness

Nearly Half of H.S. Sophomores in 2002 Had No College Credential 10 Years Later

By Sarah D. Sparks — January 10, 2014 1 min read

Sophomores who started in 2002—at the start of the No Child Left Behind Act’s accountability wave and before the massive flood of college- and career-readiness inititatives—ended up in dramatically different places 10 years later, depending on whether they continued their education after high school.

A first look at new federal longitudinal data finds 48 percent of students who started 10th grade in 2002 had not earned any kind of college degree or certification in the decade since, even if they did take some postsecondary credits.

Moreover, 27 percent of the 2002 sophomores who did not go on to college were unemployed or otherwise out of the labor force a decade later, compared to only 6 percent of those who earned at least a bachelor’s degree. Those with only a high school diploma or less were also 10 percentage points more likely to be living with their parents, and more than 60 percent earned in the bottom fifth of income in 2012, while more than 60 percent of those who earned at least a four-year degree after high school were in the top income bracket in 2012. The education-related gaps also translate into big racial disparities, as more than half of Asian students and nearly 40 percent of white students in the study earned at least a bachelor’s degree, compared to less than 20 percent of black or Latino students.

The chart below details how those 2002 10th-graders break down in college and career status as of 2012.

The data come from the federal Education Longitudinal Study of 2002, which has tracked more than 13,000 students who started 10th grade in 2002 for 10 years so far. More details on the students’ college transcripts is being collected this academic year, and will be released with a future follow-up on the students.

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