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Indicators 2002
Introduction Overview Chapter 1: Elementary and Secondary Education Chapter 2: Higher Education in Science and Engineering Chapter 3: Science and Engineering Workforce Chapter 4: U.S. and International Research and Development: Funds and Alliances Chapter 5: Academic Research and Development Chapter 6: Industry, Technology, and the Global Marketplace Chapter 7: Science and Technology: Public Attitudes and Public Understanding Chapter 8: Significance of Information Technology Appendix Tables
Chapter Contents:
How Well Do Our Students Perform Mathematics and Science?
Science and Mathematics Coursework
Content Standards and Statewide Assessments
Curriculum and Instruction
Teacher Quality and Changes in Initial Teacher Training
Teacher Professional Development
Teacher Working Conditions
IT in Schools
Transition to Higher Education
Selected Bibliography
Appendix Tables
List of Figures
Presentation Slides

Click for Figure 1-20
Figure 1-20

Click for Figure 1-21
Figure 1-21

Click for Figure 1-22
Figure 1-22

Elementary and Secondary Education

Transition to Higher Education

Transition from High School to College
Transition Rates by Sex
Transition Rates by Race/Ethnicity
Remedial Education in College

Expectations of college attendance have increased dramatically over the past 20 years, even among low-performing students. More than two-thirds of high school graduates attend college, and a rising proportion have taken a college preparatory curriculum in high school. The use of AP exams to gain college credit in high school has also increased, although research has shown that some colleges are less likely to award AP credit now than in the past. Despite greater numbers of students aiming for college, some college faculty are concerned that today’s students are less well prepared in mathematics than previous generations of students. College-level remediation is also on the rise, and policymakers are increasingly concerned about the number of students needing to take remedial courses in college. This section reviews changes in the immediate transition from high school to college over the past 30 years, including changes by sex and by race/ethnicity. The final section discusses the growth of remediation at the college level, a trend that troubles both educators and policymakers who are concerned about the efficacy of the S&E pipeline.

Transition from High School to College top of page

Because most college students enroll in college immediately after completing high school, the percentage of high school graduates enrolled in college the October following graduation is an indicator of the total proportion who will ever enroll in college. College enrollment rates reflect both the accessibility of higher education to high school graduates and their assessments of the relative value of attending college compared with working, entering the military, or pursuing other possibilities.

Overall, immediate college enrollment rates for high school completers increased from 49 to 63 percent between 1972 and 1999. (See figure 1-20 figure.) Much of the growth in these rates between 1984 and 1999 was due to increases in the immediate enrollment rates for females at four-year institutions (see below.)

Some differences in immediate enrollment rates among groups of completers have not changed. The gap in rates between those from high- and low-income families persisted for each year between 1990 and 1999. Likewise, completers whose parents had attained a bachelor’s degree or higher were more likely than those with parents who had less education to enter college immediately after high school graduation for each year between 1990 and 1999 (NCES 2001b.)

Transition Rates by Sex top of page

Females are slightly more likely than males to make an immediate transition from high school to college. Between 1972 and 1999, immediate enrollment rates for female high school graduates increased faster than those for males. (See figure 1-20 figure.) Much of the increase between 1984 and 1999 was due to increases in female enrollment rates at four-year colleges, which rose from 34 to 43 percent over this 15-year period. In 1999, the enrollment rate at four-year institutions was 43 percent for females compared with 41 percent for males. That year, females were about as likely as males to enroll in two-year institutions after high school graduation (both about 21 percent) (NCES 2001b.)

Although males and females are similarly prepared to enter the math and science pipeline upon entering college, a large gender gap occurs in the selection of college majors (see sections on achievement and coursetaking in this chapter and chapter 2). However, the divergence in interest in math and science careers may start much earlier.

Transition Rates by Race/Ethnicity top of page

College transition rates for white and black high school graduates have increased over the past 30 years, while rates for Hispanic graduates have been stable. (See figure 1-20 figure.) Transition rates for white high school graduates increased from 50 percent in the early 1970s to about 60 percent in the mid-1980s and have fluctuated between 60 and 67 percent since then. After a period of decline in the late 1970s and early 1980s, the percentage of blacks enrolling in college immediately after high school graduation rose through the late 1980s, stagnated in the early 1990s, and increased again in the late 1990s. Since 1984, college transition rates for black graduates have increased faster than those for whites, thus closing much of the gap between the two groups. The enrollment rates for Hispanic graduates have shown no consistent growth since 1972, fluctuating between 45 and 65 percent from 1972 to 1997 (NCES 2001b.)

The type of institutions that high school graduates first attend can affect their likelihood of completing a bachelor’s degree. Students who begin their higher education at a two-year college are far less likely to earn a bachelor’s degree than are their counterparts who begin at a four-year college. In 1994, white graduates were twice as likely to enroll in a four-year college as a two-year college after high school, black graduates were about 1.5 times as likely, and Hispanic graduates were equally likely to enroll in a four-year college as a two-year college (NCES 1996b.)

Students who initially enroll part time in college are less likely to persist toward a bachelor’s degree than those who enroll full time (NCES 1996b.) Hispanic high school graduates ages 18–24 were far more likely to be enrolled in college part time, as opposed to full time, than were their white or black counterparts in 1994. (See sidebar, "Who Is Prepared for College?")

Remedial Education in College top of page

Many students enter postsecondary education institutions lacking the reading, writing, or mathematics skills necessary to perform college-level work. Therefore, most institutions enrolling freshmen offer remedial courses to bring these students’ skills up to the college level (NCES 2000a.) Although some consider remedial courses as one way to expand educational opportunities for students with academic deficiencies, others feel that remedial instruction should be eliminated or strictly limited in four-year institutions.

In 1995, all public two-year and 81 percent of public four-year institutions offered remedial reading, writing, or mathematics courses. Fewer private four-year institutions (63 percent) offered remedial courses in one or more of these subjects. (See figure 1-22 figure.)

Public two-year institutions were more likely than either public or private four-year institutions to offer remedial courses because of their particular mission and the types of students they serve. In 1995, about one-half of public two-year institutions had open admissions compared with less than 10 percent of public and private four-year institutions (NCES 2000a.) Freshmen at public two-year institutions were almost twice as likely as their peers at public four-year institutions to enroll in remedial courses in reading, writing, or mathematics (41 versus 22 percent) (NCES 2000a.)

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