Many LAUSD Graduates Start But Don’t Get To The College Finish Line

LOS ANGELES (CNS) — In what’s being billed as the first extensive effort to track the college success of Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) graduates, a study released this week found that about 70 percent of LAUSD grads enroll in a two- or four-year college, but only about 60 percent persist to a second year.

The study by the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs and Claremont Graduate University found that among graduates in the LAUSD class of 2008, only 25 percent actually earned a college degree within six years.

The report’s authors — who also tracked the college success of the classes of 2013 and 2014 — said the research points the need for LAUSD students to be better prepared for higher education to ensure more graduates enroll in college, stay in college and earn a degree.

According to the report, fewer than one-third of 2014 LAUSD graduates had an A or B average, and only one-fourth who took the SAT or ACT scored above the national average.

“In LAUSD, graduates with at least a B average were five times more likely to complete a four-year degree than graduates with lower grades,” according to the report. “Because students’ academic performance in high school depends very heavily on the academic skills students have acquired earlier in their lives, improving students’ academic performance is not a task limited to high schools and their students.

“The responsibility for improving LAUSD students’ academic skills begins early in children’s lives and continues throughout their academic career, and should involve the entire school community as well as the families and other adults who work with students to ensure that they are prepared for their highest educational aspirations.”

The report’s authors said the district must work to ensure students complete their A-G course requirements with at least a C average, and ensure students and their families have a full understanding of the college-application and financial-aid-application processes.

“More than one in six LAUSD graduates who were academically eligible to attend a public four-year college did not enroll in any college in the year following high school graduation,” the study found. “Another one in six of those eligible for four-year college enrolled in a two-year rather than a four-year college. These students completed their A-G course requirements and earned the combination of grades and SAT scores that made them eligible for a California State University, yet they did not enroll in a four-year college.”

Frances Gipson, LAUSD’s chief academic officer, said the reports recommendations are in line with district efforts to prepare students to succeed in college.

The report’s goals “serve as the framework for an array of strategies we are implementing to address the  needs of students, families and schools,” Gipson said. “We are passionate about continuing our work to foster a college-going climate in our schools and to strengthen our college planning and academic supports as we provide more robust counseling services for our students.”

According to the report, 68 LAUSD graduates in 2008 enrolled in a two-or four-year college, most of them in a two-year school. Only 59 percent of them persisted into a second year of college, and only 25 percent earned a degree within six years.

Among 2013 graduates, 68 percent enrolled in college, and 57 percent continued into a second year. For the class  of 2014, 70 percent of LAUSD graduates enrolled in college.

“It will be important to continue to track these college-going outcomes in upcoming years to understand students’ successes and challenges as they progress through college, and to learn about how college outcomes change for future graduate cohorts,” said Thomas Jacobson, Luskin Master of Public Policy graduate and co-author of the report.

A companion study, based on a survey of LAUSD high school staffers and students and external service providers, found that counselors were burdened with overwhelming caseloads limiting their ability to work with students. More than 75 percent of counselors said they have the information available to assist students with college applications and financial-aid processes, but less than half said they have enough time to give students the help they need.