Information Brief 2012-27

College Persistence Rates by Economic Status and College Readiness

The ACT College Readiness Benchmarks indicate readiness for credit-bearing, first-year college coursework in English composition, social sciences courses, algebra, and biology. Students should be college-ready by the time they enter college. Unfortunately, this is not always the case.

Lower-income students (45%) were more likely than higher-income students (15%) to graduate from high school without the skills necessary for college coursework, as indicated by a higher percentage of these students not meeting the Benchmark in any subject.

With increased numbers of Benchmarks met, however, college persistence rates also increased for lower-income students. For example, at four-year institutions:

  • Lower-income students who met all four of the Benchmarks had a 63% chance of remaining continuously enrolled in the same institution through year 4.
  • Moreover, the gaps in persistence rates at year 4 across income groups were smaller when college readiness was taken into account.

College Persistence Rates at Year 4 by Family Income Range and Number of Benchmarks Met

Number of Benchmarks MetLower-IncomeHigher-Income
039%49%
145%55%
251%60%
357%66%
463%71%

Note: Based on data from a random sample of 18,860 ACT-tested 2003 high school graduates who enrolled in a four-year college in fall 2003. Enrollment information was obtained from the National Student Clearinghouse. Persistence was based on annual fall re-enrollment to the same initial four-year college; rates were model-based estimates. Family income of less than $30,000 a year is defined as lower-income. Higher-income is defined as a family income of greater than $60,000 a year. For a more detail description of the study, see the full ACT Research Report number 2012-2.

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