Pre-college factors biggest determinants of college success

Dive Brief:

  • More than 60% of the college completion gap can be attributed to pre-college factors, according to a new study out of NYU Steinhardt School of Culture, Education, and Human Development.
  • Poverty and high school demographics emerged as the two key factors that contributed to the graduation gap, researchers found. 
  • Attending high-minority high schools often meant less exposure to rigorous or AP courses, particularly in high-level math subjects, which help prepare students for college.

Dive Insight:

The percentage of tenured faculty members, faculty-to-student ratio, per-student expenditures, and whether the school was designated a Hispanic-Serving Institution or a Historically Black College or University accounted for 35% of student success indicators — a significantly lower number than the pre-college factors. It would seem, then, if students' fates are nearly sealed by the time they arrive on campus, there is an even stronger imperative for higher ed institutions to collaborate more with K-12 districts to help promote student success at that level. If colleges will be the ones putting "skin in the game" on student outcomes, the impetus falls heavily on them to reach back and ensure students are more prepared when they arrive. 

But for K-12 leaders, there is still much work to be done. It is no secret that schools with high minority concentrations typically offer fewer AP or IB courses, and this must be rectified. The only way to achieve equity — and to maintain the nation's economy as future generations, and thus the future workforce, are increasingly of color — is to correct these disparities. A recent study from Ed Trust West found that while some districts are making progress on equalizing funding for majority-minority schools, in some cases, gaps in course offerings and access to support staff have widened. Educators must close these opportunity gaps, and it may begin with building a real belief that students of color and low-income students are capable of completing the work. 

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Filed Under: Higher Ed K12