IOWA CITY, IOWA—Nearly one in five 2011 U.S. high school graduates who were prepared to succeed in first-year college coursework either never enrolled in college or didn’t return for a second year, according to national and state-specific reports from ACT entitled The Reality of College Readiness 2013.
The data show 19 percent of college-ready, ACT-tested 2011 graduates were not enrolled in a two- or four-year college a little more than a year later, in the fall of 2012, including 10 percent who had never enrolled. Those data are based on graduates who had achieved the ACT College Readiness Benchmark scores on at least three of the four sections (English, math, reading and science) of the ACT® college readiness exam, suggesting they were ready for success in first-year college coursework in core subject areas from an academic standpoint.
“Academic readiness is vital to college success, but other factors such as self-discipline, financial stress and effective educational planning can also have an impact,” said Steve Kappler, head of postsecondary strategy for ACT. “It’s important for students to find the right college, be aware of financial aid opportunities and ensure their major matches their personal interests, among other things. We need to pay attention to multiple dimensions of readiness in helping students achieve their educational goals.”
Up to 43 percent of all ACT-tested 2011 grads, regardless of readiness, were not enrolled or had unknown status by the fall of 2012. This includes as many as a third of college-hopeful students living in states where the test is not required of all students. (Taking the ACT is currently a requirement for all public school students in 12 states.)
“We are losing too many students in the college pipeline, and that comes with significant costs,” said Kappler. “There is the human cost when students don’t realize their goals and also financial costs—to the students themselves, in terms of loss of investment and income potential, and to the U.S. economy in general. We must find ways to get more students into college and help them stay enrolled.”
The ACT reports also suggest an increasing number of students are following nontraditional paths to college success: delaying enrollment, transferring to different schools, enrolling part-time and/or taking courses online.
The reports offer recommendations to policymakers and college officials on how to help improve college retention rates. They also list the highest-rated retention practices for two-year and four-year colleges.
The national and state reports can be accessed on ACT’s website at the following URL: http://www.act.org/readinessreality.