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2008 Spotlight

Community College

Which Seniors Attend Community Colleges Right After High School?

Student achievement and immediate enrollment

Among 2004 seniors, the rate of immediate enrollment in community colleges and in 4-year colleges and universities differed by academic achievement. For example, seniors who had a high school GPA above 2.5 (i.e., generally equivalent to a C+ or better) enrolled immediately in 4-year institutions at higher rates than in community colleges; while those whose high school GPA was 2.5 or below enrolled immediately in community colleges at higher rates generally than in 4-year institutions (see figure 16 and tables SA-16 and SA-17). This same pattern held true when comparing other measures of academic achievement:

  • Seniors with standardized mathematics scores in the top half of 12th-graders enrolled immediately in 4-year institutions at higher rates than in community colleges, while the opposite was true for those with standardized mathematics scores in the bottom quarter.

  • Seniors who had completed mathematics coursework more advanced than algebra II enrolled immediately in 4-year institutions at higher rates than in community colleges, while the reverse was true for those whose highest level of mathematics coursework was algebra I/geometry or below.

  • Seniors who had coursework more advanced than general biology enrolled immediately in 4-year institutions at higher rates than in community colleges, while the reverse was true for those whose highest level of science coursework was general biology or below.

  • Seniors who had completed foreign language coursework at or more advanced than year 2 enrolled immediately in 4-year institutions at higher rates than in community colleges, while the reverse was true for those who had completed year 1 or no foreign language coursework.

Among 1992 seniors, these same patterns generally were found for these last four measures (see tables SA-18 and SA-19).25 No comparison with 1992 immediate enrollees by GPA is possible because NELS and ELS did not collect comparable information on grades.26

Although this pattern might seem to indicate that seniors with either weaker academic achievement or weaker high school records enroll immediately in community colleges in larger numbers than their better qualified or better prepared peers, it is important to keep in mind that smaller percentages of these seniors go to college than their better qualified or better prepared peers. This means that the differences in the rates of immediate enrollment in community colleges by academic achievement do not necessarily tell us anything about the proportions of better prepared or better qualified students among the immediate enrollees in community colleges. For example, even though 2004 seniors with higher GPAs tended to enroll at community colleges at lower rates than in 4-year institutions, among immediate enrollees in community colleges the percentage with GPAs above 2.5 was actually larger than the percentage with lower GPAs (64 vs. 36 percent) (see table 2).

The results are mixed when one looks at the other measures of academic achievement in table 2. Among the immediate enrollees in community colleges in fall 2004,

  • a greater percentage had completed science coursework more advanced than general biology than had completed less academically challenging science coursework (63 vs. 37 percent);

however,

  • a smaller percentage scored in the top half of 12th-graders in mathematics than in the bottom half (40 vs. 60 percent),

  • a smaller percentage had completed mathematics coursework more advanced than algebra II than had completed less academically challenging mathematics (38 vs. 62 percent), and

  • a smaller percentage had completed foreign language coursework more advanced than year 2 than had completed less academically challenging foreign language coursework (24 vs. 76 percent).

By comparison, among the 1992 immediate enrollees in community colleges, across all four measures of academic achievement, the percentage of better qualified or better prepared students was smaller than the percentage who had weaker academic qualifications or preparation (see table SA-20).

In sum, these data suggest that 12th-graders who enrolled immediately in community colleges in 2004 not only spanned a broad range of academic achievement—including some students who were very well-prepared for college—but also included a greater proportion of well-prepared students than did the 1992 senior cohort. In addition, these data suggest that many 2004 immediate enrollees in community colleges were students with a high school GPA of C+ or above but who lacked mathematics coursework beyond algebra II, foreign language coursework beyond year 2, or both.


25 The pattern among 1992 seniors differed from that among 2004 seniors only in that apparent differences between the rate of immediate enrollment in 4-year institutions and community colleges were not statistically significant for 1992 seniors who either had completed general biology as their most advanced science coursework or had completed as their most advanced foreign language coursework year 1 of a foreign language. (back to text)

26 For details on the comparability of NELS and ELS variables, see the Technical Notes. (back to text)

Figures and Tables

Figure 16: Percentage of 2004 seniors who enrolled in a postsecondary institution immediately after high school, by type of institution and high school grade point average (GPA): 2004

Table 2: Percentage distribution of immediate enrollees in postsecondary institutions in fall 2004, by control and type of institution and selected academic achievement characteristics

Table SA-16: Percentage distribution of the spring 2004 12th–grade cohort, by immediate and delayed postsecondary enrollment status, control and type of institution, and academic achievement characteristics: 2004 and 2006

Table SA-17: Percentage distribution of the spring 2004 12th–grade cohort who enrolled immediately after high school in a postsecondary institution, by control and type of institution and academic achievement characteristics: 2004

Table SA-18: Percentage distribution of the spring 1992 12th–grade cohort, by immediate and delayed postsecondary enrollment status, control and type of institution, and academic achievement characteristics: 1992 and 1994

Table SA-19: Percentage distribution of the spring 1992 12th–grade cohort who enrolled immediately after high school in a postsecondary institution, by control and type of institution and academic achievement characteristics: 1992

Table SA-20: Percentage distribution of immediate enrollees in a postsecondary institution in fall 1994, by control and type of institution and selected academic achievement characteristics

Table S2: Standard errors for table 2: Percentage distribution of immediate enrollees in postsecondary institutions in fall 2004, by selected academic achievement characteristics and control and type of institution

Table SSA-16: Standard errors for the percentage distribution of the spring 2004 12th–grade cohort, by immediate and delayed postsecondary enrollment status, control and type of institution, and academic achievement characteristics: 2004 and 2006

Table SSA-17: Standard errors for the percentage distribution of the spring 2004 12th–grade cohort who enrolled immediately after high school in a postsecondary institution, by control and type of institution and academic achievement characteristics: 2004

Table SSA-18: Standard errors for the percentage distribution of the spring 1992 12th–grade cohort, by immediate and delayed postsecondary enrollment status, control and type of institution, and academic achievement characteristics: 1992 and 1994

Table SSA-19: Standard errors for the percentage distribution of the spring 1992 12th–grade cohort who enrolled immediately after high school in a postsecondary institution, by control and type of institution and academic achievement characteristics: 1992

Table SSA-20: Standard errors for the percentage distribution of immediate enrollees in a postsecondary institution in fall 1994, by control and type of institution and selected academic achievement characteristics

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National Center for Education Statistics - http://nces.ed.gov
U.S. Department of Education