April 12, 2018

Staying the Course: College Enrollment & Completion for Boston Public Schools Students

The PIC released a new report for Success Boston, the city's college completion initiative, detailing the college enrollment and completion of the Boston Public Schools (BPS) Class of 2011. In response to a goal set in 2008 that 70% of college-going BPS graduates earn a degree, Staying the Course takes a closer look at the progress we've made as a city, as well as the work we must do to support all students as they pursue postsecondary education.

The report unveiling on April 11 also included a panel discussion at the Boston Foundation, featuring:

  • Dr. Pam Eddinger, President of Bunker Hill Community College
  • Turahn Dorsey, Chief of Education for the City of Boston
  • Dr. Barry Mills, Interim Chancellor of University of Massachusetts Boston
  • Paul Grogran, President of The Boston Foundation
  • Kenneth Montgomery, COO and First VP of the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston and PIC Board Chair

Dr. Eddinger discussed how barriers to college completion vary widely and include many non-academic factors like housing, transportation, hunger, and childcare. Dorsey shared efforts to modernize the K-12 curriculum to better prepare students to enter postsecondary education and the workforce after high school. Dr. Mills stated the need to shift the mindset that supporting students through college is simply for social good to viewing it as an economic imperative. Grogan discussed the myriad benefits that a college degree carries, including higher lifelong earning potential. Montgomery explored how the business community can more closely partner with higher education to ensure that what is taught in the classroom aligns with the needs of industry. 

These conversations came in response to several highlights from the report.

College completion edges higher

The six-year college completion rate for the BPS Class of 2011 graduates reached 51.6%, the highest since tracking began. While below the goal of 70% set in 2008, this rate represents a sharp increase from the Class of 2000. 

the share of BPS graduates completing college has increased significantly

Due to higher college enrollment and completion rates, the share of BPS Class of 2011 graduates earning degrees is up 14 percentage points from the Class of 2011 (38.3% vs. 24.7%). 

Progress is heartening, but race-ethnic & gender gaps persist

Despite positive trends in college enrollment and completion for BPS graduates, race-ethnic and gender gaps remain wide. The college completion rate for female first-year enrollees exceeded that of males by 13 percentage points. Looking at race-ethnic subgroups, completion rates ranged from 33.6% and 36.1% for Hispanic/Latino and Black males, to 71% and 80% for White and Asian females, respectively. While more Black and Hispanic/Latino graduates are earning degrees than before, their college completion rates still lag behind their White and Asian peers.

several factors link to higher completion rates

Completion rates are higher for students who enroll in college immediately during the fall after high school than for those who wait to enroll. Students who enrolled in consecutive semesters and maintained full-time enrollment also fared better than students who took a semester off or enrolled part-time.  

Ultimately, this report indicates positive incremental progress in college completion for BPS graduates. While this progress is noteworthy, it is also important to consider the gaps that remain in who completes college. Finally, there are opportunities for targeted interventions to support more students as they navigate postsecondary education.

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