By LAUREN FITZPATRICK | staff reporter
Back in 2006, the headlines screamed “appalling.”
Out of every 100 Chicago Public School students, only six earned a four-year college degree. For minority students, it was worse — only four Hispanic boys and three African-American boys of 100.
Eight years later, that percentage has risen to 14 CPS students out of 100 graduating from a four-year college by age 25, researchers of the “Through Project” at the University of Chicago’s Consortium on Chicago School Research will announce Tuesday.
Even better news: Hispanic students have more than doubled their number of college degrees — with girls rising from 8 percent in 2006 to 16 percent in 2014, and boys from 4 percent to 11 percent. African American boys rose from 4 percent to 6 percent, and girls from 9 percent to 13 percent.
“These are real improvements we did, not just changes in superficial ways,” consortium director Elaine Allensworth said. “And these improvements have surpassed improvements in rest of the country and other large cities… [But] 14 percent still seems shockingly low.”
Chicago’s college-graduating rate isn’t far behind the nation’s 18 percent by age 25. Against urban districts, CPS surpasses both New York (11 percent) and Baltimore (4 percent), according to the district overview data, the first of three parts to be released.
“Given that Chicago is a 80 percent low income district compared to the nation, it doesn’t look so bad actually,” Allensworth said.
The overall increase stems from a substantial jump in high school graduation rates (from 58 percent in 2006 to 73 percent in 2014), and a moderate rise in college enrollment (33 percent to 40 percent). The college graduation rate is up only slightly.
That indicates that students are graduating ready for college, but once in, they struggle to finish, Allensworth said.
Prosser Career Academy graduated 82 percent of its students last year and enrolled 67 percent to college, besting CPS averages on both fronts. The Northwest Side High School’s population is 74 percent Hispanic, 21 percent African-American and 95 percent low-income students.
Prosser also requires each student to prepare at least five college applications, and offers a bevy of workshops in English and Spanish for students and their families on financial aid, post-secondary counselor Terry Batey said. A web page for seniors keeps information in one place; the school tracks students through the application process, he said.
Money remains the biggest obstacle — a shame since students leave Prosser confident they can handle college academics, assistant principal Karlen Lusbourgh said.
“It’s one concept to think you can’t do the work academically, it’s another concept to think you can’t afford it,” Lusbourgh said.
CPS has miles to go, considering that 75 percent of high school students say they aspire to a college degree — and 49 percent of CPS graduates who go to college still don’t finish.
Aarti Dhupelia, CPS’ college czar, said the district has piloted a training program this year to make sure all college counselors know best practices — starting with the 20 schools that need the most help, she said.
She’s also about to announce a compact between about 25 colleges its students attend the most to help expand the conversation from K-12 to K-16.
“CPS can’t do it alone,” she said.