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New report finds variation in students’ postsecondary pathways

New report on students’ postsecondary pathways

By Cora Goldston
October 28, 2019

As high school seniors look ahead to graduation, states and districts are looking at what happens next. Regional Educational Laboratory (REL) Midwest and the Midwest Career Readiness Research Alliance studied the pathways that students took within one year and six years of high school graduation, including students’ degree and certification attainments and employment outcomes. The study found that while there was variation across some demographic characteristics, rural and nonrural students had very similar postsecondary pathways and outcomes.

>> Read and download the full report

Understanding Minnesota graduates’ paths after high school

In 2013, Minnesota passed the World’s Best Workforce legislation aimed at providing a high-quality education for all students, including readiness for college and career success. To inform the college and career readiness supports that high schools offer, Minnesota state and district education leaders wanted to learn more about the pathways students take after high school graduation and how those pathways vary for different subgroups of students. The REL Midwest study used the Minnesota Statewide Longitudinal Education Data System, employment data, and earnings data to explore students’ pathways one year and six years after high school graduation.

What did the study find?

Within one year of graduation, 92 percent of Minnesota public high school graduates from 2008 to 2015 were enrolled in college or employed.

Employment and college enrollment differed across demographic subgroups, however. Graduates with disabilities, graduates with limited English proficiency, Hispanic graduates, and American Indian/Alaska Native graduates were less likely than their peers to be employed or enrolled in college one year after graduation.

Six years after graduation, 52 percent of Minnesota public high school graduates from 2008 to 2010 had attained at least one college certificate or degree.

Within six years, of the 52 percent that had attained at least one degree, 37 percent of high school graduates attained a bachelor’s degree or higher, 11 percent attained an associate’s degree, and 4 percent attained a college certificate. The remaining 48 percent of graduates did not attain a college certificate or degree in the six-year timeframe.

Six years after graduation, 71 percent of Minnesota public high school graduates from 2008 to 2010 were employed with median annual earnings of $22,717.

Annual earnings differed across demographic subgroups. However, the differences were smaller for graduates who completed more postsecondary education.

Even when considering students with the same initial pathway after high school, differences in employment, degree attainment, and annual earnings remained across student subgroups.

The study found differences among high school graduates’ pathways by race/ethnicity, gender, socioeconomic status, enrollment in special education, and English proficiency. However, the study did not find significant differences between the pathways of rural and nonrural students.

These findings can help state education agencies, districts, and schools provide more targeted supports for high school students as they prepare for college, careers, or other postsecondary opportunities.

What can we take away from the study?

School leaders can use the study findings to promote postsecondary opportunities and provide more intensive support to students of color, economically disadvantaged students, students with limited English proficiency, and students in special education programs. Colleges, vocational schools, and career training programs also may use the findings to devote resources to recruit and retain these students in certificate or degree programs.

The findings can also inform district and state efforts to bolster supports for college and career readiness. These supports can include providing professional development for high school counselors and administrators, monitoring postsecondary plans like the Minnesota World’s Best Workforce district plans, and developing connections among high schools, colleges, vocational schools, and local industry partners.

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Author Information

Cora Goldston Staff Picture

Cora Goldston

Communications Specialist | REL Midwest


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