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NSBA’s Center for Public Education Report Finds Few High School Graduates Don’t Go on to College

September 29, 2014

The Path Least Taken: Comparing non college enrollees to their college-going peers

Alexandria, Va. (Sept. 29, 2014) – In a new report, The Path Least Taken: A Quest to Learn More About High School Graduates Who don’t Go on to College, the National School Boards Association’s (NSBA), Center for Public Education (CPE) shifts the discussion about college and career readiness from graduates who go to college after high school, toward non college-goers. CPE’s analysis shows the non college-going group to be much smaller than previously thought--only 21 percent of high school graduates don’t proceed to a two- or four- year college by age 20 and by age 26 that percentage reduces to 12.

“We must expand our conversations about college and career readiness,” said Thomas J. Gentzel, NSBA‘s Executive Director. “Both non college-going and college-going students require access to a rigorous education and student supports to be truly prepared for future success after high school.”

Drawing on data from the U.S. Department of Education National Center for Education Statistics’ (NCES’s) Education Longitudinal Study (ELS:2002) http://nces.ed.gov/surveys/els2002/, the CPE report examines the characteristics, expectations, and academic preparation of non college enrollees.

“In examining the academic courses taken by college and non college-goers, on average, non college enrollees took fewer and less rigorous academic courses than their college-going peers,” said Jim Hull, author of the report and CPE’s Senior Policy Analyst. “With the findings of this report policymakers, school leaders, and educators will be better positioned to serve the education and support needs of all students, college-going and non college-going.”

CPE’s big takeaway in the report: While only a small proportion of high school graduates never attend college, it’s important for public schools to prepare all students to be life-long learners, regardless of whether or not they go on to college.  Such preparation includes rigorous courses and more student support, especially in bridging the gulf between aspiration and attainment.

In the next installment of the analysis, CPE will look at the after high school outcomes of non college-goers and the steps high schools can take for such students to succeed after high school.

CPE gratefully acknowledges the support of State Farm Insurance for this study. The findings and views expressed herein are solely those of the authors and the Center for Public Education.

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The Center for Public Education (CPE) www.centerforpubliceducation.org  is a national resource for credible and practical information about public education and its importance to the well-being of our nation. CPE provides up-to-date research, data, and analysis on current education issues and explores ways to improve student achievement and engage public support for public schools. The Center is an initiative of the National School Boards Association. 

The National School Boards Association (NSBA) www.nsba.org is the leading advocate for public education and supports equity and excellence in public education through school board leadership. NSBA represents state school boards associations and their more than 90,000 local school board members throughout the U.S. Learn more at www.nsba.org.

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