With College Access and Success Support, Underrepresented Students Close Gaps in Postsecondary Enrollment and Graduation

July 22, 2015

By Bill DeBaun, Program Analyst

In the last 40 years, college enrollment rates for historically underrepresented students have increased, but graduation rates have barely budged. Data from dozens of NCAN member organizations show, however, that these students complete college at close to the national average when properly supported.

NCAN’s second annual “Closing the College Graduation Gap” national benchmarking report found that the six-year graduation rate of students served by NCAN members in the class of 2008 (56.8%) was approaching the overall National Student Clearinghouse benchmark of 59.3% for students nationally who enrolled in postsecondary education within one year of graduating high school. The NCAN completion benchmark is also substantially higher than the most recently available comparable data for all low-income, first-generation students from the class of 2003 (45.3%).

This report is a collaboration of NCAN members and the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center (NSCRC) to develop meaningful metrics about the outcomes of students served by college access and success programs. This year’s report offers even more insights into the performance of NCAN member-served students.

Using data collected from 42 NCAN member programs (up from 24 last year), the NSCRC calculated an enrollment rate and graduation rates for the high school classes of 2008, 2009, and 2010 and an enrollment rate for the high school class of 2014. These metrics represent the key milestones of postsecondary access and success that anchor NCAN’s Common Measures. Effectively collecting and analyzing data has become increasingly important in the college access and success field, and NCAN works to provide members with resources and opportunities to develop these capacities.

The results of the second year of benchmarking hold both encouraging developments for NCAN members and a renewed charge to be persistent in closing the postsecondary enrollment and completion gaps facing low-income, first-generation students. The enrollment rates for the four high school classes examined (74%, 71%, 69%, and 64% for the partial 2014 year) all exceeded similar rates for urban, suburban, and rural low-income high schools published in the NSCRC’s 2014 High School Benchmarks report. Even more encouraging is that NCAN’s enrollment benchmarks exceed those of four categories of high-income high schools.

The report also compares NCAN’s graduation rate benchmark for the class of 2008 (the only year for which there was a 6-year graduation rate) to the NSCRC’s “Completing College: A National View of Student Attainment Rates – Fall 2008 Cohort” report. As mentioned above, the graduation rate of students served by NCAN members (56.8%) was approaching the overall NSC benchmark of 59.3%. This gap shows that the mission of NCAN and its members to ensure postsecondary opportunities for traditionally underserved students remains critical.

Although the measures above appeared in last year’s inaugural report, this year’s report goes in-depth and provides enrollment and completion rates for students by year, gender, race/ethnicity, Hispanic heritage, and first-generation status. This data became available after a more intensive collection from NCAN members. Because more data were collected, NCAN will release additional analyses of this benchmarking data, including a demographic analysis of students who never enrolled, enrolled but did not complete, and those who completed within six years. NCAN will also dive deeper into the interventions received by various student groups and explore whether certain interventions, or combinations of interventions, are more strongly associated with enrollment or completion than others.

Work on the third round of the Benchmarking Project will commence this summer, and interested NCAN members can find more information or contact NCAN Deputy Director Sara Melnick or Program Analyst Bill DeBaun to signal their interest in participating.

NCAN continues to be proud of our members’ passion for their missions and commitment to using data to demonstrate their effectiveness. The result of the second benchmarking report clearly demonstrate what NCAN has believed since our creation 20 years ago: Our member programs change the lives of over two million students per year and help students overcome the odds to access and complete a postsecondary education and, eventually, a better life.

NCAN would like to thank the Kresge and Michael & Susan Dell Foundations for their continued invaluable support in pursuing and completing this report.

If you would like to help NCAN share the news about the benchmarking report via Twitter, please do so using the tweets below!

Second annual report measuring the enrollment & graduation rates of NCAN-served students released http://www.collegeaccess.org/benchmarkingreport2015

NCAN students' enrollment rates are comparable to their higher-income peers. Read more in NCAN’s 2nd benchmarking report http://www.collegeaccess.org/benchmarkingreport2015

NCAN-served students' completion rates approach national benchmark, exceed other low-income/first-gens http://www.collegeaccess.org/benchmarkingreport2015

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