Key Questions

1. Are students taking the steps to apply to and enroll in a four-year college?

2. What kinds of colleges do CPS students enroll in, given their qualifications?


This second post-secondary report looks beyond qualifications to examine where students encounter potholes on the road to college. The findings reveal that Chicago students at all levels of qualifications do not successfully navigate the daunting process of enrolling in four-year colleges and too often default to colleges for which they are overqualified. For CPS students who reported aspiring to a four-year degree, only 41 percent took the steps necessary in their senior year and ultimately enrolled in a four-year college. This drop off is even worse for Latino students who wanted to earn a bachelor's degree, with only 46 percent applying and 30 percent enrolling in a four-year college in the fall after graduation—a gap that persisted regardless of students' immigration status. Furthermore, only about a third of CPS students who aspire to complete a four-year degree enroll in a college that matches or exceeds their qualifications. While "match" is just one consideration in finding the right college fit, it is an important one because earlier Consortium research demonstrated that graduation rates among the most popular Illinois colleges varies dramatically—even among students who graduate with a grade point average of 3.5 or above.

The study relies on qualitative and quantitative data for CPS seniors in 2005—student and teacher surveys, transcripts, college enrollment data reported by the National Student Clearinghouse, and student interviews. Consortium researchers spent nearly two years interviewing and tracking the academic progress of 105 students in three Chicago high schools. The 10 case studies included in the "Potholes" study each highlight a student who struggled at a different point in the post-secondary planning process.