SACRAMENTO – For some students, going to college is not guaranteed, even with student loans. It is true that not everyone can afford to go to college if they want to stay out of debt, but being eligible to go is another matter entirely. Maintaining good grades, or at least good enough to be accepted to a university is a tough job for a young student. And statistically it has been historically tough for students who are Latino or African-American. But recent studies have gone on to show that those trends are starting to change.
The percentage of high school graduates eligible for California State University (CSU) admission has risen steadily during the past two decades, moving from 29.6 percent in 1996 to an all-time high of 40.8 percent in 2015, with African-American and Latino students making the largest gains, according to a report by Research Triangle International (RTI).
During the period of the study (1996 to 2015), the eligibility rate of African-American students and Latino students for CSU and UC more than doubled.
Overall, eligibility for admission to the University of California (UC) system also increased from 11.1 percent to 13.9 percent.
The change in eligibility, in addition to California’s growing population, translates into a massive increase in the number of students who qualify for postsecondary education in California.
According to the study, about 46,000 high school graduates were eligible for UC and 114,000 were eligible for CSU in 2007. By 2015, an estimated 60,000 were eligible for UC and 175,000 for CSU.
The study attributed the gains to improved academic preparedness and increasing high school graduation rate, which has risen for seven consecutive years, moving from 74.7 percent in 2010 to an all-time high of 83.2 percent in 2016.
State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson said the study shows that efforts by educators, parents, students, and community leaders to improve K–12 education are paying off—especially the new Local Control Funding Formula, which provides greater transparency, increases local decision-making capability, and allocates more resources to students with the greatest needs.
“Preparing more high school students to attend state colleges and universities brings many benefits,” Torlakson said. “It provides a lifetime of opportunities for each student, helps our communities by creating more informed citizens, and boosts our businesses by providing more highly educated workers needed to fill jobs in California’s extraordinary economy.”
The report, required by the Legislature, uses results from a recent analysis of high school transcripts and data from the California Longitudinal Pupil Achievement Data System (CALPADS).
The RTI report shows that disparities in eligibility among student groups is shrinking significantly:
In 2007, the eligibility gap for CSU between white and Latino students was 14.6 percentage points, but it had dropped to 7.9 percent by 2015.
In 2007, the eligibility gap between white and African American students was 13.1 percent, and in 2015 it declined to 9.8 percent.
From 2007 to 2015, the gap in eligibility for UC between white and Latino students narrowed from 7.7 percentage points to 3.4 percentage points, and the gap between white and African American students dropped from 8.3 percentage points to 5.4 points.
The study covers two decades, but it may also indicate success brought about by the major changes occurring in K–12 education in California.
In recent years, in addition to the Local Control Funding Formula, California has introduced higher academic standards, online testing, and the California School Dashboard, which provides information on multiple measures of progress to help identify areas of strength and areas where schools and districts need assistance. All of these changes are designed to ensure that California’s 6.2 million public school students are ready for college and 21st century careers.
“I want to thank everyone for putting their creativity, talents, and dedication into improving our schools for so long,” Torlakson said. “This is a great indicator that our education system has momentum, inspiring us to continue working together for positive change in education, which I call the ‘California Way.’”
Torlakson also cautioned that much work needs to be done to continue the progress this report shows in K–12 education.