Most Philadelphia grads don’t go straight to college

This article was originally published in The Notebook. In August 2020, The Notebook became Chalkbeat Philadelphia.

The first big hurdle in getting more Philadelphians on track to post-secondary academic success is to ensure that fewer students drop out before finishing high school. In recent years, the graduation rate has finally climbed above 60 percent in Philadelphia public schools.

But a bigger dropoff comes at the next step in the process.

Of those who complete high school here, fewer than four in 10 move directly to college. Put another way, although more than 60 out of every 100 public school students are now completing high school, only about 25 of that 100 are going off to college in the first fall after high school.

A recent analysis of all the first-time 9th graders in Philadelphia public schools in 1999 found that only 10 out of 100 had earned a two- or four-year degree 10 years later. Even among those coming out of the school system who start college, a majority fail to earn a degree.

New data from the School District (below) show a strong correlation between where students attend high school and the likelihood that they will go directly on to college. The city’s special admission high schools on average send more than three-fourths of their students to college right after graduating. From neighborhood high schools, that figure is stuck below 30 percent; from charters, it now tops 40 percent.