Growing race, class gaps in college graduation rates

CommonWealth Magazine

ACHIEVEMENT SCORES AND educational attainment levels for Massachusetts students of all backgrounds have improved since the early 2000s, but large gaps remain and those for college graduation rates have grown wider, a troubling trend in a state already plagued by significant income inequality, according to a new study.

At a time of heightened focus on college completion being crucial to securing a place in the middle class, huge demographic disparities in higher education graduation rates exist even among students who appear similarly well prepared academically for college studies.

The report by researchers at Brown University, which examined 10th grade MCAS scores and later student outcomes, also found that scores are highly correlated with high school and college completion and later earnings in the labor market, but the strength of this association varied widely depending on students’ demographic background.

“I think it’s both good news and bad news,” said John Papay, an associate professor of education and economics at Brown and the lead author of the report.  “We see that educational attainment has been increasing for all groups of students, but we see that gaps in four-year college completion are also increasing.”


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