A new longitudinal study highlights the stark reality in the U.S. that class matters far more than academic achievement up to grade 12 in terms of graduating from college. Simply put, even the lowest achieving rich students have a higher likelihood of graduating from college than do the highest achieving poor students.
In 2002, researchers with the National Center for Education Statistics started tracking a cohort of 15,000 high school sophomores. The project, called the Education Longitudinal Study, recorded information about the students’ academic achievement, college entry, work history and college graduation. These young people are now in their late 20s.
To highlight simply one example of the statistics about college graduation garnered from this study, “one out of four of the disadvantaged students who had hoped to get a bachelor’s had done so. Among those from the most advantaged families, 60 percent had earned a bachelor’s, about two-thirds of those who had planned to.”
While most Americans will not, of course, be shocked to learn that class plays a significant role in young people achieving success, this study provides a wake up call to education reformers who truly want to help disadvantaged students graduate from college at higher rates: simply helping with academics does not do nearly enough.
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