ACT and COE Report Tracks Trends in College and Career Readiness for Students Whose Parents Did Not Attend College
IOWA CITY, IA – First-generation college students have high educational ambitions, but their preparation to reach those aspirations often falls short, according to a new report released recently by ACT and the Council for Opportunity in Education (COE). While more than nine in 10 first-generation students who took the ACT test say they plan to attend college, about half are academically unprepared to succeed in key courses once they get there.
The report, The Condition of College & Career Readiness 2014: First-Generation Students, shows that 52 percent of ACT-tested first-generation college students in the 2014 high school graduating class met none of the four ACT College Readiness Benchmarks, compared to 31 percent of all ACT-tested graduates for that year. Both percentages are unchanged from the previous year. First-generation students are defined as those whose parents did not receive any postsecondary education.
Over the past four years, the percentage of ACT-tested graduates who are first-generation students has almost doubled — from 10 to 18 percent. For the graduating class of 2014, 57 percent—or more than 1.8 million students — took the ACT nationally, including 341,000 first-generation students.
“The upside of these findings is that as more first-generation students take the ACT, their access and exposure to the college admissions process is increasing,” says Jim Larimore, ACT chief officer for the advancement of underserved learners. “But our research also shows that students’ likelihood of enrolling in college right after high school increases based on the number of readiness benchmarks they meet.”
Readiness trends for first-generation students from 2011 to 2014 include the following:
- The percentage meeting all four ACT Benchmarks has remained flat at 9 percent.
- The percentage meeting the science Benchmark has increased from 12 percent to 17 percent.
- The percentage meeting each of the three other Benchmarks has declined since 2011: English — from 46 to 42 percent; reading — from 32 to 24 percent; and math — from 25 to 22 percent.
“The findings of this joint report confirm our understanding that first-generation student success requires the coordinated efforts of many people in the TRIO and college access community,” says Maureen Hoyler, president of the Council for Opportunity in Education. “The services they offer are crucial to improving readiness for these students, as they are designed specifically to meet their unique needs as students of parents who have not earned postsecondary degrees.”
The research-based ACT College Readiness Benchmarks specify the minimum scores students must earn on each of ACT’s four subject tests (English, math, reading and science) to have about a 75 percent chance of earning a grade of C or higher in a typical credit-bearing first-year college course in the corresponding subject area. ACT research suggests that students who meet the Benchmarks are more likely than those who do not to persist in college and earn a degree.
The ACT/COE report uses data from the more than 1.8 million ACT-tested 2014 high school graduates. During ACT registration, students are asked to provide information about parental education, high school course taking and postsecondary aspirations. Students who reported that neither parent attended any type of postsecondary training were classified as first-generation students for the analysis in this report.
The report is available at www.act.org.
ACT is a mission-driven, nonprofit organization dedicated to helping people achieve education and workplace success. Headquartered in Iowa City, IA, ACT is trusted as the nation’s leader in college and career readiness, providing high-quality achievement assessments grounded in more than 50 years of research and experience. ACT offers a uniquely integrated set of solutions that help people succeed from kindergarten through career, providing insights that unlock potential. To learn more about ACT, go to www.act.org.