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Research Center Releases High School Benchmarks 2019: National College Progression Rates

by NSC Blog | Oct 7, 2019 | High School Benchmarking, K-12, Research Reports, StudentTracker for High Schools |

7th Annual Report Provides High School Graduates’ College Enrollment, Persistence, and Completion Outcomes

The National Student Clearinghouse Research Center released today High School Benchmarks 2019: National College Progression Rates, which is the most relevant benchmarks that secondary education practitioners can use to evaluate and monitor progress in assisting students to make the transition from high school to college. This seventh annual High School Benchmarks Report provides the most updated data on high school graduates’ college enrollment, persistence, and completion outcomes for the 2018 high school graduating class.

Key Findings:

Postsecondary Enrollment

Students from higher-income high schools were 25 percent more likely to enroll in college immediately after high school than those from low-income schools (69 percent and 55 percent, respectively). The gap still persisted when looking at college enrollments within two years of high school graduation.

High schools where at least half of the students are eligible for the free and reduced-price lunch program are considered low-income schools.

Persistence During the First Year of College

Once enrolled, 89 percent of students from higher-income high schools returned to their second year in college, compared to 79 percent from low-income high schools.

Completion Within Six Years of High School Graduation

Students from low-poverty high schools were more than twice as likely to earn a degree within six years of high school graduation (53 percent) as their counterparts from high-poverty schools (21 percent). Also, 36 percent of students from urban high schools completed a degree within six years, compared to 41 percent from rural schools and 47 percent from suburban schools.

When minority and income levels are cross-examined, enrollment and completion gaps between higher- and low-income high schools at each minority level were substantially larger than the gaps between high- and low-minority schools regardless of income levels.

Graduates of low-income and high-minority high schools completed college within six years at the lowest rate (27 percent), a gap of 24 percentage points from the rate for graduates of higher-income and low-minority schools (51 percent).

STEM Degree Completion

STEM degree completion was strongly associated with both the minority and income levels of originating high schools. Sixteen percent of graduates from higher-income schools, but only eight percent from low-income schools, earned STEM degrees within six years of high school graduation. Similarly, 17 percent from low-minority schools, but only 10 percent from high-minority schools, completed STEM degrees within six years.

In addition, persistence gaps are notable in STEM majors. During enrollment, engineering was one of the top five majors for graduates of both higher-income and low-income high schools. However, at completion, only graduates from higher-income schools had engineering as one of their top five most common majors.


The report covers thousands of public and private high schools from all 50 states and a majority of the 100 largest districts in the United States, including nearly 40 percent of all public high school graduates.

The High School Benchmarks 2019 report data are drawn from the Clearinghouse’s StudentTracker® for High Schools service and are presented for students from different types of high schools, such as low- versus higher-income, and low versus high minority. This enables more focused discussions, particularly about low-income and minority students traditionally not well served by higher education.

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