From High School to the Future: A First Look at Chicago Public School Graduates' College Enrollment, College Preparation, and Graduation from Four-Year Colleges

April, 2006
Melissa Roderick, Jenny Nagaoka, and Elaine Allensworth; with Vanessa Coca, Macarena Correa, and Ginger Stoker
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Following CPS graduates from 1998, 1999, 2002 and 2003, this report uses records from Chicago high schools and data from the National Student Clearinghouse to examine the college experiences of all CPS alumni who entered college in the year after they graduated high school.

The study paints a discouraging picture of college success for CPS graduates. Despite the fact that nearly 80 percent of seniors state that they expect to graduate from a four-year college, only about 30 percent enroll in a four-year college within a year of graduating high school, and only 35 percent of those who enroll received a bachelor’s degree within six years. According to this report, CPS students’ low grades and test scores are keeping them from entering four-year colleges and more selective four-year colleges.

With the exception of Latino students, CPS graduates attend college at rates only slightly lower than students of similar race/ethnicity in the rest of Illinois and the nation. Latino graduates of CPS are much less likely to enroll in college even though they have aspirations similar to African-American CPS graduates.

Even for CPS’s most highly qualified high school graduates, college completion varies considerably, suggesting that the college students attend matters a great deal. Of CPS’s top graduates—those with a 4.0 GPA—six-year graduation rates from four-year colleges ranged from a low of only 30 percent at Northeastern Illinois University to highs of nearly 90 percent at Loyola University and more than 90 percent at Northwestern University.

MDRC, a policy research organization, has published another version of this paper. Closing the Aspirations-Attainment Gap: Implications for High School Reform; A Commentary from Chicago, written by Melissa Roderick, is available on their website.

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