Key Questions

1. How many Chicago Public Schools (CPS) graduates are going to college? Where are they going, and how does that differ by race/ethnicity, gender, and high school attended?

2. How prepared are CPS graduates for college, and how does this shape their access to different types of colleges?

3. How many CPS students graduate from four-year colleges within six years after high school graduation?


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.

he 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 Black 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.