The college qualification index is based on five measures—high school GPA, senior class rank, NELS 1992 test scores, SAT scores, and ACT scores. Students were classified according to the highest level they had achieved on any of the criteria. Thus, the qualification of students who were missing data on any of the measures were categorized based on nonmissing data. The "highly qualified" students were in the top 10 percent of those who attended a 4-year institution on at least one measure; "very qualified" students were in the top 25 percent; "minimally to somewhat qualified" were in the top 75 percent; and "marginally or not qualified" students had no value on any of the five measures that would place them in the top 75 percent. Some adjustments were made for curriculum, moving students up one level higher if they had taken a program of rigorous high school courses, and down from "highly to "very" qualified if they had not. See Berkner and Chavez (1997) for more detail.
Level of mathematics in high school
No mathematics or low or nonacademic mathematics: Student took no mathematics courses or took nonacademic or low academic courses including those classified as "general mathematics" or "basic skills mathematics," preliminary (e.g. prealgebra) or reduced rigor/paced mathematics courses (algebra 1 that is spread over 2 academic years and "informal geometry").
Middle academic I: Student completed 2 years of mathematics including algebra 1 and geometry, or 2 years of a unified mathematics sequence covering algebra 1, geometry, and algebra 2.
Middle academic II: Student completed 3 years of mathematics, including algebra 2 or a third year of a unified mathematics program.
Advanced academic: Student completed at least one class beyond algebra 2 labeled as "advanced," including courses such as algebra 3, precalculus, trigonometry, probability, statistics, or calculus.
NELS mathematics proficiency test level
Level 1: Can perform simple arithmetical operations on whole numbers.
Level 2: Can perform simple operations with decimals, fractions, and roots.
Level 3: Can perform simple problem solving requiring conceptual understanding or the development of a solution strategy.
Rigor of high school curriculum
The overall difficulty of students’ coursework in high school is an indicator of their academic preparation for postsecondary education. Using previous research as a guide (Adelman 1999; Burkam, Lee, and Smerdon 1997), the variable "academic rigor" was created to reflect the following:
When information on honors/AP coursetaking was missing, AP test-taking was used to provide supplementary data. It was assumed that, if AP records indicated that students had taken an AP test, students had taken a honors/AP course.
Coursetaking was compared with the New Basics curriculum recommended by the National Commission on Excellence in Education (NCEE) in 1983 that consists of 4 years of English, 3 years each of mathematics, science, and social studies, and one-half year of computer science. The Core New Basics is the most commonly implemented form of this curriculum and excludes the computer science requirement.