Public Charter School Students Graduate From College at Three to Five Times National Average

Vanessa Descalzi

National Alliance for Public Charter Schools

Washington, D.C.— New research from The 74 Million finds that public charter school students are graduating from college at three to five times the national average for children from the lowest-income families. The research, reported through the multimedia series The Alumni, focuses on nine large charter school networks that have instituted innovative programs and supports to get their students to and through college—helping to ensure students earn a four-year bachelor’s degree within six years of graduating from high school.

“About a decade ago, 15 years into the public charter school movement, a few of the nation’s top charter networks quietly upped the ante on their own strategic goals,” reads one article in The Alumni coverage. “No longer was it sufficient to keep students ‘on track’ to college. Nor was it enough to enroll 100 percent of your graduates in colleges…Hold us accountable, the educators said, for how our kids do once they leave us, marking a remarkable paradigm shift in the way charter schools define success.”

Only about nine percent of children from the lowest-income families go on to complete college within six years. The charter school networks featured in The Alumni are graduating college at significantly higher rates, including:

Other charter school networks studied include IDEA Public Schools, The Noble Network of Charter Schools, Alliance College-Ready Public Schools, Aspire Public Schools, and Green Dot Public Schools.

“Public charter schools across the country are going above and beyond to support their students in college and life,” said National Alliance for Public Charter Schools President and CEO Nina Rees. “As The Alumni points out, it’s not just large charter school networks that are implementing these critical supports. Independent, single-site charter schools, like Boston Prep in Massachusetts, instill a college-going mindset from a young age, referring to high school cohorts by their college graduation year. Marion P. Thomas Charter School in New Jersey helps their graduates with college scholarships. And countless others across the country name their classrooms after universities, provide essential mentoring to their graduates, and more—creating a culture that not only gets their students to college, but through college.”

The benefits of graduating from college are life-long. According to a recent report from Georgetown University, virtually all of the 11.6 million new jobs that have been created since the great recession have gone to workers with at least some college education, and 72 percent of these jobs went to workers with at least a bachelor’s degree. Additionally, The College Board found that in 2015, median earnings of bachelor's degree recipients were 67 percent higher than those with only a high school diploma. 

Reads The College Board report Education Pays 2016, "College education is associated with healthier lifestyles, reducing health care costs. Adults with higher levels of education are more active citizens than others and are more involved in their children's activities."