College persistence and graduation

Research has shown the benefits of a college education – higher income, better health, increased civic participation and greater life satisfaction. That is good news for the 95% of Farther Foundation alumni who enroll in college. But that is not where the research ends, to reap those benefits merely going to college is not enough, graduation is the key (See the article by David Leonhardt in the New York Times blog, The Upshot).

college-selectivity-chartGraduation is far from a given when a student enters college. The national graduation rate hovers around 60% but ranges widely among colleges from 20% – 95%. Furthermore, the college graduation rate for low-income, first generation and under-represented minority students lags behind the overall national average. However, a closer look at the statistics reveals an interesting outcome. When graduation rates at individual colleges are considered, the differences between the overall graduation rates and those for low-income, first generation and under-represented minority students are greatly reduced or nearly vanish (See the research by The Education Trust).

The data clearly shows that regardless of the students’ socio-economic status some schools are better at graduating their students than others. It is important therefore for students to seek admission to those schools that have the best graduation rates. Barron’s Magazine’s Profiles of American Colleges publishes a college ranking guide that sorts colleges into categories of competitiveness. While these rankings can be debated and the alignment with graduation rates is not perfect, there is fairly strong correlation that the colleges ranked as very, highly or most competitive graduate students at a higher rate than those ranked as competitive, less competitive or noncompetitive. The Upshot went even deeper; compiling an index of those colleges it ranked as the best at doing the most for low income students (see the rankings here).

How does this relate to the work of Farther Foundation? We believe that the unique educational experiences we provide to low-income high school students – giving them the opportunity to travel away from home while participating in new experiences – gives them a broader base of knowledge and the confidence to apply to and gain admission to the best and most appropriate college for them. Research from The Education Trust found that low-income students were less likely than their higher-income counterparts to enroll in colleges in the upper half of selectivity and performance. In research specifically with Chicago Public School students, The University of Chicago Consortium on Chicago School Research found that 7 of the 10 most frequently attended colleges by CPS students have graduation rates less than 50%. Additional research indicates that CPS students tend not to seek out colleges that best align with the upper range of their abilities and qualifications.

Farther Foundation students are charting a different path. Not only are 95% of our students enrolling in college directly upon graduation from high school, but 96% of those students are graduating or remain on track to graduate from college. No doubt the college persistence shown by our students is due in great measure to their own character and capacities. However, their college choices seem to reflect a boldness and confidence that exceeds even their high achieving peers. 79% of Farther Foundation students attend colleges in the top three categories of Barron’s rankings – Very Competitive, Highly Competitive and Most Competitive. Our students’ ability to be aware of their options, and their confidence to seek out the best and most appropriate college, puts them on the path to success. We believe (and they believe) that the educational travel experiences made possible by Farther Foundation contributed greatly in fostering the knowledge and confidence that influenced their college decisions and will continue to be a positive influence in all of their future achievements.

You can help. Farther Foundation and the students we serve depend on the tax deductible donations from people like you to make these life changing experiences possible. Visit our website to make a donation online.

Farther Foundation is a 501(c)(3) charitable organization providing scholarships to low-income students to inspire them to reach their highest aspirations through educational travel experiences.

Go Farther!


About gofarther

David is the founder and director of Farther Foundation,a charitable scholarship organization. Farther Foundation enables students from economically disadvantaged circumstances to explore interests, expand horizons, gain inspiration and elevate aspirations for leadership and success. We do this by providing scholarships and support for students to participate in educational travel experiences that are significant and potentially life changing.
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