College & Workforce Readiness Report Roundup

Study Unpacks Schools’ College-Going Rates

By Sarah D. Sparks — January 08, 2013 2 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

Students who enter high school with the academic potential to attend a four-year college after graduation make very different choices about higher education based on the high school they attend, according to a new set of analyses by Harvard University’s Strategic Data Project.

In their analysis, researchers from Harvard’s Center on Education Policy Research linked high school records to college enrollment data for students at public schools in Albuquerque, N.M.; Boston; Charlotte-Mecklenburg, N.C.; Fort Worth, Texas; Fulton and Gwinnett counties in Georgia, and Philadelphia. They found that, of students who showed academic potential—as judged by their cumulative high school GPAs and math and verbal SAT scores—18 percent enrolled in less-selective four-year colleges, two-year institutions or no higher education at all. Students who chose less-selective colleges were less likely to continue through to earn a diploma.

“These are people who are clearly poised for success and are not clearly moving into it,” said Jon Fullerton, the center’s executive director. High-performing students may be choosing apprenticeships or vocational programs that don’t require a four-year degree, he said, but they could also have trouble navigating the college-selection and financial aid processes in order to attend more selective four-year programs.

In a separate analysis, researchers found widely disparate college-going rates for different high schools within each district, from a 28-percentage-point spread in Fort Worth to an 89-percentage-point spread in Philadelphia.

While schools with higher standardized test scores, on average, sent more students to college four years later, a different picture emerged when researchers disaggregated students into quartiles based on their academic preparation in 8th grade.

In general, students who entered high school in the top 25 percent of the district academically had a 65 percent change of enrolling in a four-year college after high school, researchers found—but in Albuquerque, Charlotte, and Gwinnett County, the college-going chances of top-quartile students increased to more than 80 percent. Within districts, lower-performing students in some schools had better chances to go on to a four-year college than top performers in other schools.

In the 93,000-student Fulton County district, guidance counselors were surprised at the gap between college acceptance and enrollment rates.

In response, six county high schools piloted a summer program to keep students on track to college by helping them find a college, financial aid, housing, and required freshman courses. Educators also surveyed graduates on why they delayed or decided against college.The district’s on-time college enrollment rate for disadvantaged students has since risen by 10 percentage points; enrollment in four-year colleges rose by 9 percentage points, the researchers found.

Related Tags:

A version of this article appeared in the January 09, 2013 edition of Education Week as Study Unpacks Schools’ College-Going Rates


Student Well-Being Webinar After-School Learning Top Priority: Academics or Fun?
Join our expert panel to discuss how after-school programs and schools can work together to help students recover from pandemic-related learning loss.
Budget & Finance Webinar Leverage New Funding Sources with Data-Informed Practices
Address the whole child using data-informed practices, gain valuable insights, and learn strategies that can benefit your district.
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.
Classroom Technology Webinar
ChatGPT & Education: 8 Ways AI Improves Student Outcomes
Revolutionize student success! Don't miss our expert-led webinar demonstrating practical ways AI tools will elevate learning experiences.
Content provided by Inzata

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 Everyone Earns an Industry Certification and Most Go to College in This CTE Program
Pittsburgh Public Schools' CTE students are graduating with at least one industry certification and a confirmed post-graduation plan.
10 min read
Tenth graders, TaeLyn Johnson, left, and Dilana Gray, right, practice on a dummy during their EMS class at Westinghouse High School in Pittsburgh, Pa., on Dec. 13, 2022.
Tenth graders TaeLyn Johnson, left, and Dilana Gray practice EMS skills during a career and technical education class at Westinghouse High School in Pittsburgh on Dec. 13, 2022.
Nate Smallwood for Education Week
College & Workforce Readiness The May Internship: Can It Help Schools Cure Senioritis?
A full-time, monthlong internship is helping seniors stay engaged at a Baltimore school.
5 min read
Anna Trudeau, 18, a senior at Friends School of Baltimore, works as an intern at the calcium channels lab at the University of Maryland School of Medicine Department of Physiology in Baltimore, Md., on May 18, 2023. Friends School of Baltimore has seniors spend their final month of high school working at an internship.
Anna Trudeau, a senior at Friends School of Baltimore, takes a break from her internship at a laboratory at the University of Maryland School of Medicine Department of Physiology in Baltimore, Md., on May 18, 2023. Twelfth graders at her school spend their final month of high school working at full-time internships.
Matt Roth for Education Week
College & Workforce Readiness Opinion The Nation Is Still at Risk: The Urgency of Workforce Preparation
The labor market needs education to evolve. Career and technical education has an important role to play, writes Anthony P. Carnevale.
Anthony P. Carnevale
5 min read
Illustration of a figure walking through a landscape of vocational iconography.
Liana Nagieva/iStock + Vanessa Solis/Education Week
College & Workforce Readiness What the Research Says Students Pay a Growing Price for Landing a Job Outside Their College Major
Researchers think better guidance in high school could lessen the cost to young people in long-term income.
3 min read
Young girl working on an electrical panel in a classroom setting.