Aug 12, 2022 - News

Improving college success in high school

Illustration of a graduation cap but the tassel is a ladder.

Illustration: Maura Losch/Axios

Even though 69% of Chicago Public Schools' freshmen this year aspire to go to college, only about 19% are likely to receive a bachelor's degree within 10 years of starting high school, according to a University of Chicago analysis.

What's happening: To try to remedy the issue, a program called OneGoal teams students up with a cohort of other college-aspiring peers during their junior year of high school and continues support through their freshman year of college.

Driving the news: Researchers at the U. of C.'s Inclusive Economy Lab — formerly called Poverty Lab — recently found significant benefits after analyzing the outcomes of more than 7,000 OneGoal fellows compared to peers who did not participate.

How it works: Principals and OneGoal instructors identify students they think would most benefit from the program, targeting those with GPAs between 2.0 and 3.0 and those who would be the first in their family to go to college.

  • Each cohort of students spends one class period a day together preparing for college during their junior and senior years.
  • Local participating schools include CPS' Crane, Simeon and South Shore high schools, as well as DePaul and Western Illinois universities.

The results: Compared to non-participating peers, OneGoal fellows are:

  • 46% more likely to enroll in college
  • 47% more likely to persist in college for at least two years
  • 40% more likely to complete a degree

Details: Inclusive Economy Lab executive director Carmelo Barbaro tells Axios that the lab's research adds to the literature on the efficacy of support-based college-completion programs.

  • Participation in Dell Scholars, he notes, has increased graduation "in six years by 9 to 13 percentage points."
  • And a similar support program called Bottom Line "increased college enrollment by 7 percentage points and [continued enrollment] to the second year by 8 percentage points, with larger effects among students with lower GPAs."

What they're saying: These programs "have important potential for designing a pathway toward greater postsecondary success for more of the city’s young people, including Black and Latinx students, who are disproportionately underserved," Barbaro says.

What's next: The Inclusive Economy Lab is conducting a multiyear randomized controlled trial looking at OneGoal fellows versus a control group of peers to evaluate longer-term impacts on their academic outcomes after the program.


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