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Many College-Ready Students Aren't Enrolling in College, Says ACT

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By guest blogger Liana Heitin

About 20 percent of students who are likely well-prepared for their first year of college are not actually enrolling, finds a new report from the ACT.

The report, released today, looks at college-enrollment patterns for the 1.92 million students from the class of 2015 who took the ACT test. Specifically, it analyzes whether students who met the ACT college-readiness benchmarks in each of the four subjects—English (composition), reading, math, and scienceended up going to either two-year or four-year higher education institutions. 


To meet a college-readiness benchmark, a student must hit the minimum score to have about a 75 percent chance of earning at least a grade C and a 50 percent chance of earning at least a B in a first-year college course in that subject, according to the ACT. 

Overall, 67 percent of students who took the ACT test in 2015 went to college.  

However, 22 percent of students who met three of the four college-readiness benchmarks, and 17 percent of those who met all four, did not enroll. 

The numbers were not hugely disparate across racial groups. Eighteen percent of African-American students and 19 percent of Hispanic students who hit all four benchmarks did not go to college. For white students, 16 percent who met all four did not go. American Indian students were the least likely to go to college despite hitting all four benchmarks, with 22 percent not enrolling. 

ACT college readiness and enrollment 2016.JPG

Conversely, the data show that 23 percent of students who met none of the college-readiness benchmarks enrolled at four-year schools. The report notes that these students are "known to be at academic risk" and will likely need support to be successful in college. 

The study doesn't offer much for explanation or prescriptions. But there's plenty more data in there if you're interested, including on how students' stated preferences for the type of college they'd like to attend matched up with their actual enrollment. (Hint: It often didn't). 

See also: As More Students Take SAT, Scores Flatline

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