The IERC At SIUE Releases Study on College Readiness

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The Illinois Education Research Council (IERC) at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville has released a report highlighting the associations between college readiness and college outcomes.

Understanding how college readiness is distributed and relates to postsecondary outcomes also could help pinpoint problem areas in the educational pipeline, said Eric Lichtenberger, IERC associate director for research, SIUE assistant research professor.

The Illinois Education Research Council (IERC) at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville has released a report highlighting the associations between college readiness and college outcomes.

Understanding how college readiness relates to college enrollment and degree completion has direct policy implications, particularly for states such as Illinois.

According to the IERC, many states currently are developing definitions of and metrics for college readiness to meet requirements for a No Child Left Behind waiver. Understanding how college readiness is distributed and relates to postsecondary outcomes also could help pinpoint problem areas in the educational pipeline, said Eric Lichtenberger, associate director for research for the IERC and an assistant research professor at SIUE.

“This knowledge could assist policymakers as they define college readiness and develop ways to measure it, not only to obtain an NCLB waiver, but to support the state’s goal to increase the proportion of individuals with quality postsecondary degrees and credentials to 60 percent by 2025,” he said.

The report focuses on 115,677 graduates from the Illinois high school class of 2003 and follows them through postsecondary education. It starts by describing how college readiness, as measured by the college readiness benchmarks set by the ACT, is distributed among the Class of 2003. The report also establishes the college readiness of various groups based on select demographic characteristics. Finally, the relationships between college readiness, student characteristics and college enrollment, persistence, and bachelor’s completion are analyzed.
Findings from the report indicate the following:

  •     About half the Class of 2003 was adequately prepared to have a high probability of postsecondary success in at least two of the subject areas covered by the ACT;
  •     Given the relatively high benchmark in Science (24), those who met this benchmark had a high probability of meeting all of the other benchmarks: English (18), Reading (21), and Math (22);
  •     Missing a benchmark in either English or Math had a much more detrimental impact on the rates of enrollment at four-year colleges and bachelor’s degree completion relative to missing a benchmark in Science or Reading.
  •     Although a higher proportion of male students met all of the college readiness benchmarks, they lagged behind female students in terms of bachelor’s degree completion;
  •     Minority students meeting all of the benchmarks had significantly higher rates of four-year enrollment and enrollment at the most competitive colleges relative to their white peers;
  •     However, African-American and Hispanic students had significantly lower rates of bachelor’s completion relative to white and Asian students.
  •     It should be noted that enrolling at a more competitive college appeared to narrow the racial gap in terms of bachelor’s completion, particularly for underserved minority students enrolling in a highly competitive institution.

The study provides evidence to show that for college enrollment and bachelor’s completion, college readiness matters. Meeting three or more—and in some cases two (Math and English)—of the benchmarks was related to increased rates of postsecondary success. This was particularly true for students from wealthier families and those enrolling at more competitive institutions. However, differences in the importance of meeting the benchmarks varied across demographic groups and the outcome being measured. This suggested that the definition of college readiness should be multi-dimensional.

According to Lichtenberger “future work will explore how non-academic factors, such as first generation college status, could help explain the difference in bachelor’s completion rates for students meeting the same number of college readiness benchmarks.”

For more information, contact Lichtenberger, the author of the report, (618) 650-2840 or (866) 799-4372. A complete report is available at ierc.siue.edu.

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Bethany Forsythe
Southern Illinois University Edwardsville
618-401-1691
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