College Readiness is a Critical Factor in Student's Postsecondary Persistence

Author: Helios Education Foundation

May 29, 2018

Over the last several years, there has been significant conversation at both state and national levels about the importance of postsecondary degree attainment to individual quality of life as well as community economic growth and development.  Considering the importance of postsecondary degree attainment, we must ask ourselves how we can increase postsecondary access, persistence, and completion among all students.

Helios Education Foundation recently completed a research brief to gain some insight into that question.  In partnership with NORC at the University of Chicago, Helios looked at the matriculation and persistence rates of a cohort of more than 19,000 students who participated in Helios’ College Knowing & Going Initiative.  The goal was to examine the extent to which these students matriculated to college and whether they persisted after their first year. 

The research builds on work from the National Student Clearinghouse to analyze the extent to which college readiness influences postsecondary persistence.  The researchers focused on answering the following three questions:

1. What happened to students after graduating high-school?  Which students went to college?  Of those, which ones persisted, enrolled late, graduated with a two-year degree, or dropped out?
2. How did college readiness influence the persistence rates and how did college readiness play out across race and ethnicity?
3. Using statistical modeling, how did race/ethnicity, college readiness, college type, full or half-time enrollment, and time of enrollment relate to college persistence?

A large proportion, 54 percent, of students in this cohort did not attend college after graduation or dropped out within the first year.  The findings presented in this brief also highlight the importance of ensuring college readiness among high school students.  The results of the data showed statistically significant differences between students that were college ready and those that were not.  Students deemed college-ready based on their composite ACT score were 43 percent less likely to drop out of a postsecondary program.  Further the analysis highlighted that Latino students considered college-ready were more likely to stay in school than their non-Latino White counterparts. 

In terms of the role that type of college plays on persistence, results of this study determined that students attending four-year colleges were less likely to drop out than those attending two-year colleges even after controlling for a number of indicators (e.g., ACT Score).  Finally, time of enrollment was also shown to effect persistence.  This research showed that those students who start late (at least a semester after they graduate) are more than 25 percent more likely to drop out of college.  At the same time, those students who start early (before high school graduation) were nearly two-thirds more likely to persist.

“Overall, the findings indicate that we still have significant work to do to increase our postsecondary matriculation and persistence rates,” said Paul Perrault, Vice President of Research and Evaluation at Helios Education Foundation.  “We hope this research helps elevate the conversation about the importance of increasing college readiness rates for all Arizona students.” 

Click here to learn more and download the brief.   

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