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School Income Level Continues to be Big Predictor of College Enrollment

How many graduates from a particular high school go on to college depends largely on the school's poverty level and whether it is public or private, while location is not as much of a factor, new research reveals.

This information comes from the second annual High School Benchmarks Report released Tuesday from the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center,. based in Herndon, Va.  The analysis of 3.5 million students from high schools in 50 states encompasses about 25 percent of all high school students and includes a million more students than in last year's report.

The Center shows that enrolling in a four-year college is most closely linked to attending a high-income school. While 73 percent of students from high-income, low-minority, suburban schools enrolled in college right after high school graduation, the college-enrollment rate at low-income schools ranged from 47 percent to 58 percent, according to the report.

Once income is controlled for, there was no difference in college-going rates between urban, suburban, and rural high-minority schools.

Students from low-income schools were more likely to attend a two-year college, with nearly half of all graduates from low-income schools enrolling at a community college. Overall, less than one-third of all college enrollments of higher income, low-minority schools, regardless of locale, were at two-year institutions.

Students from high-income schools were more likely to attend an out-of state school (11 percent to 23 percent), compared to 13 percent from low-income schools.

This year, the Center included a small sample of private schools and public charter schools. It found 86 percent of private school students immediately attended college in the fall after graduation, as did 60 percent of public charter school graduates.

While the research primarily focused on immediate enrollment after high school, researchers discovered many students who sat out in the fall did eventually decide to attend in the second semester or summer, boosting overall enrollment, particularly at two-year colleges, which allow for flexibility in start times. 

While immediate enrollment was 50 percent among low-income high school graduates, it was 65 percent within two years of graduation.

The Center for Public Education at the National Schools Association recently revealed in a report that by age 26, nearly 88 percent of high school graduates pursue some form of postsecondary training.

The National Clearinghouse report includes a large sample, but it is not considered nationally representative because schools analyzed participate in the StudentTracker program, which is a service provided to schools for a small annual fee.

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