Tracking the Road to College Success: Inaugural National High School Benchmarks Report

National Student Clearinghouse® Research Center™ Releases First Benchmarks Report on High School-to-College Transition Rates


Paula Newbaker


James Minichello

Herndon, Virginia, October 15, 2013 - For the first time, a national level report has been developed that offers benchmarks for public high schools to compare their graduates’ college transition rates nationwide, including those serving low income and minority students. The High School Benchmarks Report: National College Progression Rates, expected to be released annually, was created by the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center.

Recent years have seen increased interest in the movement from high school to postsecondary institutions, particularly for the low income and minority schools that are covered by the study. Recent demographic changes within the United States makes this report particularly informative at this time. In addition, the report gives high schools an opportunity - previously unavailable - to compare their graduates' college success to those from similar high schools nationwide.

The report, which presents postsecondary outcomes for high school graduating classes from 2010 through 2012, is based on school-level demographic and geographic characteristics. It covers high schools graduating more than 2.3 million students over three years, or about a quarter of all U.S. high schools graduates each year, from all 50 states. The six high schools categories reported are:

1. Low Income, High Minority, Urban High Schools

2. Low Income, Low Minority, Urban High Schools

3. Low Income, Rural High Schools

4. Higher Income, High Minority, Urban High Schools

5. Higher Income, Low Minority, Urban High Schools

6. Higher Income, Rural High Schools

Report findings for the class of 2012, who enrolled in college the following fall, include:

  • 70 percent of graduates from higher income, low minority, urban high schools enrolled in college in fall 2012; the highest rate for all 2012 public high school graduates.
  • Higher income, rural schools had the next highest 2012 college fall enrollment rate at 65 percent.
  • The fall 2012 college enrollment rate was 62 percent for higher income, high minority, urban schools.
  • Students from low income schools had lower college enrollment rates, ranging from 50 percent for students from low income, rural schools to 55 percent for students from low income, low minority, urban schools.

The report also includes college enrollment rates for both the first and second year after high school graduation, as well as persistence from the first to second year of college.

“This report fills in knowledge gaps at a time when there is increased focus on the transition from secondary to postsecondary education,” stated Dr. Doug Shapiro, Executive Director, Research Center, National Student Clearinghouse. “For the first time, high schools can compare their own graduates’ college enrollment rates with those for similar high schools. As this report will be repeated annually, it will help high schools to learn what works for improving college access for their students.”

“This report underscores our need to fully realize that the biggest factor limiting the academic success of our students is poverty,” said Daniel A. Domenech, Executive Director, AASA, The School Superintendents Association. “I applaud the National Student Clearinghouse for releasing this study. It should signal a call to action to educate the total child—all aspects of child development—in order to transform America’s school systems so more students enter college. It’s up to our political, community and business leaders to help close the achievement gap, which unfortunately begins before children ever come to school.”

The next report by the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center will be its sixth Signature Report, an annual report on the national college completion rate, to be released in November.

About the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center

The National Student Clearinghouse Research Center is the research arm of the National Student Clearinghouse. The Research
Center collaborates with higher education institutions, states, school districts, high schools, and educational organizations as part of a national effort to better inform education leaders and policymakers. Through accurate longitudinal data outcomes reporting, the Research Center enables better educational policy decisions leading to improved student outcomes.

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