Closing the College Graduation Gap: NCAN'S 2017 Benchmarking Report

Students served by college access and success programs enroll in and complete college at rates exceeding their peers and approaching national averages, overcoming obstacles faced by low-income, first-generation students, many of them students of color. This is the key finding from the National College Access Network’s “Closing the College GraduationGap: 2017 National College Access and Success Benchmarking Report.” 

The report, the fourth in an annual series, uses the student-level data of dozens of NCAN members to understand students’ outcomes and the impact of college access and success organizations on their field. 

“NCAN members’ critical work in advancing equity and promoting success is on display in this report,” NCAN Executive Director Kim Cook said. “Given the proper supports, low-income, first-generation students can and do succeed at enrolling in and completing postsecondary education.”

Nearly three-quarters (74%) of NCAN member-served students from low-income high schools enrolled in postsecondary education in the first year following high school graduation in 2015. This greatly exceeds the first fall enrollment rates of a national sample of high-poverty (51%) and low-income high schools (54%) provided by the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center (NSCRC). 

Similarly, 74 percent of NCAN member-served students from high-minority high schools enrolled in the first year following high school graduation, compared to 57 percent who enrolled in the first fall nationally.

Half of member-served students from the high school class of 2010 who enrolled in the first year following graduation completed a degree or credential within six years. Although this approaches the NSCRC’s 55-percent six-year completion rate of students who first enrolled in fall 2010, it shows there is still more work to be done to close attainment gaps between low-income, first-generation students and the average student nationally.

Comparing six-year completion rates for all member-served students (not just those who enroll immediately) and students nationally, holding high school categories constant, students served by NCAN members outperform their peers. The 36-percent six-year completion of member-served students from low-income high schools is double that of students from high-poverty high schools (18%) and 50 percent greater than students from low-income high schools (24%).

NCAN members know the value to students of being outcomes-focused. The Benchmarking Project and this report are evidence that our efforts are collectively moving the needle for our students. These data are helping us to discover what is working for our students, and we are sharing that with our members.