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More CPS Students Enrolling In College, U. of C. Researchers Find

By Sam Cholke | October 10, 2017 1:00pm
 More CPS students are enrolling in college, U. of C. researchers have found.
More CPS students are enrolling in college, U. of C. researchers have found.
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HYDE PARK — Researchers reported good news about Chicago Public Schools students Tuesday: More students are heading off to college compared to a decade ago.

The University of Chicago Consortium on School Research on Tuesday released two reports on college enrollment for CPS students that by and large was good news all around, reporting higher graduation rates and more students enrolling in four-year colleges than a decade ago.

“Compared to 2006, nearly 4,000 more CPS students graduated from high school in 2016, going from 57 percent of ninth-graders to 74 percent in 2016,” researchers wrote. “This increase in high school graduation, coupled with an increase in four-year college enrollment rates — from 33 percent to 44 percent — means that CPS sent 3,500 more students to four-year colleges in 2015 than it did 10 years ago.”

It’s clear that the stark differences in college enrollment between black and Latino students compared to whites and Asians has not gone away, but there have been some improvements, particularly for black and Latino girls in CPS.

Chicago is now outpacing other urban districts in the number of students that enroll in four-year colleges.

Researchers say there are a number of possible causes, from investments in Chicago City Colleges to better access to Pell Grants to more engagement by local nonprofits in education.

CPS Chief Executive Forrest Claypool and Chief Education Officer Janice Jackson said the achievement in college enrollment seemed nearly impossible several years ago.

“Although our schools have never been better, we recognize our work is just getting started,” Claypool and Jackson said in a statement. “By continuing to expand access to rigorous college-level instruction and helping students plan for postsecondary success, we expect to build on the progress our schools have made and reduce the achievement gap.”

They thanked teachers and principals for the progress being made with students.

The study, however, warns that he city should brace for some of these gains to be temporary.

Several obstacles have hit the school system since the 2015 graduating class researchers studied, including state funding cuts.

Researchers said they might expect to see changes in CPS students’ college choices starting with the 2016-17 class because of the delays in the state paying out Illinois Monetary Award Program grants to students.

Researchers said they’ve also started to see a decline in the number of former CPS students finishing college, which still trails the national average.

The news still remained largely positive, but it found avenues to improve the outlook for CPS students, including figuring out why one in four former CPS students transferred to a two-year college from a four-year college within four years of graduating from high school.

There also are still nearly 1,000 students graduating with excellent grades who are not enrolling in college.

“There could be many reasons for these students not enrolling — and students may be making sound choices based on their situations — but these numbers raise questions about the supports these students were receiving,” researchers write.

The full studies are available on the consortium’s website.