Ed Trust–NY findings on college persistence gap shine light on need to better support students on the path ‘to and through’ college

by | Apr 13, 2022 | Press Release

NEW YORK – A new analysis released today by The Education Trust–New York reveals that while the rate of students earning an associate or bachelor’s degree within six years of starting college is up 9 percentage points – from 50% for the cohort that graduated from high school in 2012 to 59% for the cohort that graduated from high school 2014 – far too many students are leaving college without a diploma, particularly those who graduated from high schools serving the largest shares of students from low-income backgrounds.

The analysis draws on data included in Ed Trust–NY’s To & Through interactive tool, which allows users to explore data that captures how well New York State’s public high schools are preparing students for success in college.

Using data from the New York State Higher Education Services Corporation (HESC) and the National Student Clearinghouse, the online tool provides clear and transparent information about college enrollment, persistence, and outcomes.

The online “to and through” tool is based on data for students who are estimated to 1) have graduated from New York State public high schools in 2012, 2013, and 2014; 2) enrolled the following fall in a New York college or university; and 3) participated in the Tuition Assistance Program (TAP)—which provides financial aid to families generally earning up to $80,000 per year for dependent undergraduate students. The updated tool tracks each cohort of students through six years of postsecondary enrollment and measures whether they attain an associate and/or bachelor’s degree.

The findings of the analysis underscore the critical need to better support New Yorkers on the path to earning a college diploma, from high school through college completion.

“A college degree can be the key to higher income and a family-sustaining wage, especially for students who have historically been underserved by the education system,” said Dia Bryant, executive director of The Education Trust–New York. “We hope this tool helps educators to urgently direct resources where they are needed to better support all students on the path to and through college, and ultimately help more New Yorkers – especially first-generation students and those receiving TAP – realize the dream of a college diploma.”

Among the findings:

  • Graduation rates increased every year between the 2012, 2013, and 2014 cohorts for students who enrolled in both two- and four- year colleges.
  • Among 2012, 2013, and 2014 high school graduates who participated in TAP, 26% completed a postsecondary degree on time and 55% completed a degree within six years.
  • High schools that served larger shares of students from low-income backgrounds yielded lower on-time and eventual college completion rates for students who participated in TAP than high schools that served smaller shares of students from low-income backgrounds.
  • On-time and eventual college completion rates were lower at private, for-profit colleges than at public or independent colleges.

The available data calls on policymakers to support equity-focused policies that will support more students on their path to and through college including:

  • Provide clear criteria on what it means for high school graduates to be college and career ready.
  • Invest in a statewide early childhood-to-workforce data system.
  • Encourage and support schools and school districts in using “to and through” data to improve alignment with the expectations of colleges and universities.
  • Expand access to advanced coursework for middle and high school students.
  • Commit to a statewide postsecondary attainment goal, with an emphasis on students who participate in TAP.

Learn more about the findings and explore the data here.

This project is made possible thanks to the support of the Heckscher Foundation for Children.

“Students and families who have historically been underserved by our education system have a fundamental civil right to make informed decisions about school choices, and we’re committed to funding tools that help them do that,” said Peter Sloane, chairman and CEO of the Heckscher Foundation for Children. “Removing barriers to equality in educational choices is fundamental to our mission and this particular tool, which links college completion data back to the high school level, is a prime example of our targeted problem solving in action.”