Academic journal article Education Next

Boosting: Hispanic College Completion: Does High-School Recruiting Help More Students Graduate?

Academic journal article Education Next

Boosting: Hispanic College Completion: Does High-School Recruiting Help More Students Graduate?

Article excerpt

OVER THE PAST DECADE, Hispanic students have graduated high school and entered college in growing numbers. Yet the rate of Hispanic college completion has remained persistently lower than that of whites and other ethnic groups in the United States: only 23 percent of Hispanic adults hold any postsecondary degree compared to 42 percent of all adults. Helping raise the Hispanic college graduation rate is an urgent goal, given the persistently high rate of poverty among Hispanic families, growth of the Hispanic population to account for one in five college-age Americans, and mounting concerns about racial and economic inequality.

The question is, how?

One potential strategy involves helping high school students broaden the set of colleges to which they apply and enroll. Hispanic students may be more constrained in their college-selection process than other groups, and are far more likely to attend two-year colleges, which typically have far lower graduation rates than four-year institutions. Just 56 percent of Hispanic college students enroll at four-year institutions compared to 72 percent of non-Hispanic white students. Hispanics are also less likely than members of other ethnic groups to earn a bachelor's degree: 15 percent of Hispanics have a bachelor's degree, compared to 33 percent of whites, 54 percent of Asians, and 22 percent of African Americans (see Figure 1).

We examine an intervention designed to expand Hispanic students' college exposure: the National Hispanic Recognition Program (NHRP), a College Board initiative that identifies top-performing Hispanic students based on their 11th-grade Preliminary SAT/National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test (PSAT/NMSQT) scores. NHRP changes two key features of their high-school experience. First, the College Board notifies students and school staff, such as school counselors, about this prestigious award. Second, with the student's permission, the College Board shares lists of NHRP honorees with postsecondary institutions looking to recruit Hispanic students. We measure the impact of this early, pre-application recognition on students' enrollment decisions, as well as their college persistence and degree attainment rates.

We find evidence that the program induces students to apply to and attend more elite institutions, shifting students from two-year to four-year institutions as well as to out-of-state and public flagship colleges, all areas where Hispanic attendance has lagged. Overall, NHRP recipients are 1.5 percentage points more likely to enroll at a four-year institution, 5 percentage points more likely to attend both an out-of-state college and a recruiting institution, and 3 percentage points more likely to attend a public flagship institution. The program's impact on college completion is generally positive but statistically insignificant; however, we find sizable increases in bachelor's degree completion among students who otherwise were at the highest risk for dropping out of college.

Together, these findings demonstrate that college outreach can have substantial impacts on the enrollment choices of Hispanic students and can serve as a lever for institutions looking to draw underrepresented, academically talented students.

An Elite Honor for Hispanic High-School Students

NHRP was founded in 1983 by the College Board, a nonprofit that advocates for expanded access to higher education and administers college-level exams such as the SAT. Similar in spirit to the National Merit Scholarship Program, an annual academic scholarship competition conducted by the National Merit Scholarship Corporation, the NHRP was designed to recognize outstanding Hispanic high-school students and encourage them to enroll in college. The program identifies the top 2.5 percent of Hispanic students each year based on their performance on the 11th-grade PSAT/NMSQT, which assesses skills in math, critical reading, and writing. …

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