NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Who's Ready for College?

September 17, 2003

To be "college ready," students must pass three crucial hurdles: they must graduate from high school, they must have taken certain courses in high school that colleges require, and they must demonstrate basic literacy skills. Yet among the students in the 2001 public high school class, only one in three is even minimally prepared for the rigors of college, say researchers Jay P. Greene (a senior fellow with the Manhattan Institute) and Greg Forster.

Using data from the U.S. Department of Education, the authors estimated the percentage of students who graduate high school as well as the percentage that finish high school ready to attend a four-year college. They also broke-down these estimates by racial/ethnic group as well as by region and state.

According to their research:

  • Only 70 percent of all students in public high schools graduate, and only 32 percent of all students leave high school qualified to attend four-year colleges.
  • Only 51 percent of all black students and 52 percent of all Hispanic students graduate, and only 20 percent of all black students and 16 percent of all Hispanic students leave high school college-ready.
  • The graduation rate for white students was 72 percent; for Asian students, 79 percent; and for American Indian students, 54 percent.
  • The college readiness rate for white students was 37 percent; for Asian students, 38 percent; for American Indian students, 14 percent.

Due to their lower college readiness rates, black and Hispanic students are seriously underrepresented in the pool of minimally qualified college applicants, say the researchers. Only 9 percent of all college-ready graduates are black and another 9 percent are Hispanic, compared to a total population of 18-year-olds that is 14 percent black and 17 percent Hispanic.

Source: Jay P. Greene and Greg Forster, "Public High School Graduation and College Readiness Rates in the United States," Education Working Paper No. 3 September 2003.

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