Summary: College Eligibility

Spotlight on Key Indicators: College Eligibility

Learn More About College Eligibility

College Eligibility
High School Graduation
Math Proficiency
Disconnected Youth
Pupil Support Service Personnel
Reading Proficiency
School Connectedness
School Safety
Truancy, Suspensions & Expulsions
Teen Births
Why This Topic Is Important
Higher educational attainment generally leads to more employment opportunities, higher earning potential, and even better health (1). All students should have access to the resources needed for college preparation given that educational attainment is a strong predictor of future well being. Resource availability impacts college eligibility rates, including the courses necessary for University of California (UC) and/or California State University (CSU) entrance, school counselors, and qualified teachers (2). Low-income students and students of color often have less access to these resources (2).
Although college completion is correlated with better career potential, many young people find personal and financial fulfillment through other means, including military service, vocational training, and work.

For more information about college eligibility, see’s Research & Links section.

Sources for this narrative:

1. Child Trends Databank. (2014). Educational attainment. Retrieved from:

2. Rogers, J., et al. (2011). Free fall: Educational opportunities in 2011. UCLA IDEA & UC/ACCORD. Retrieved from:
How Children Are Faring
In 2015, 43% of California’s public high school graduates had completed the courses required for University of California and/or California State University entrance, with a grade of “C” or better. This figure fluctuated between 1998 and 2008 at around 35%, but it has risen steadily since then. Among counties with data in 2015, more than half of high school graduates completed these requirements in nine counties; however, the percentage was below 25% in ten counties.

Inequities persist in college eligibility among racial/ethnic groups. In 2015, 72% of Asian American high school graduates and 50% of white high school graduates completed the course requirements for University of California and/or California State University entrance, compared to about one-third of Hispanic/Latino (35%), Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander (35%), African American/black (33%), and American Indian/Alaska Native graduates (30%).
Policy Implications
To graduate from high school eligible for college, young people need access to high quality early learning and continued educational support beginning in infancy (1). Early learning opportunities and high quality K-8 education are important foundations to accessing rigorous college preparatory courses taught by qualified teachers and college preparation counseling in high school (1, 2, 3). To ensure K-12 students are career and college ready, California has adopted the Common Core State Standards for English and math, joining most other states in the United States (4).

Students who face the greatest barriers to college readiness are low-income students, students of color, foster care students, English Learners, undocumented students (now eligible for financial aid in California), and students whose parents did not go to college (2, 5, 6, 7). School districts, counties, states, and the federal government can pursue policies that target early interventions and put youth onto the pathway towards college eligibility (1, 2, 5, 6).

Policies that could improve college readiness include:
  • Aligning standards, curricula, and assessments from birth through college (1)
  • Linking early learning data systems to K-12 data systems (1)
  • Applying recent research findings on key topics, including early literacy and mathematics, to state and district policies and practices (1)
  • Ensuring access to college preparatory courses for all students, dual enrollment programs, and credit recovery options (8)
  • Responding to struggling students with comprehensive support programs that integrate academic, social, and emotional support while tracking outcomes (2, 3, 9)
  • Increasing families’ and students’ financial awareness and assisting students in completing financial aid applications (10)
For more policy ideas and research on this topic, see’s Research & Links section. Also see Policy Implications under the following topics on Reading Proficiency, Math Proficiency, and High School Graduation.

Sources for this narrative:

1.  National Governors Association. (2012). Governor’s role in aligning early education and K-12 reforms: Challenges, opportunities, and benefits for children. Retrieved from:

2.  Ross, T., et al. (2012). Higher education: Gaps in access and persistence study (NCES Report No. 2012-046). National Center for Education Statistics. Retrieved from:

3.  Pathways to College Network. (n.d.). Social support: An essential ingredient to success. Institute for Higher Education Policy. Retrieved from:

4.  Common Core State Standards Initiative. (2016). Standards in your state. Retrieved from:

5.  Barrat, V. X., & Berliner, B. (2013). The invisible achievement gap: Education outcomes of students in foster care in California’s public schools. WestEd. Retrieved from:

6.  Garvey, J., & Grobe, T. (2011). From GED to college degree: Creating pathways to postsecondary success for high school dropouts. Jobs for the Future. Retrieved from:

7.  California Student Aid Commission. (n.d.). California Dream Act. Retrieved from:

8.  College and Career Readiness and Success Center. (2013). Understanding accelerated learning across secondary and postsecondary education. American Institutes for Research. Retrieved from:

9.  Berger, A., et al. (2013). Early college, early success: Early College High School Initiative impact study. American Institutes for Research. Retrieved from:

10.  Tierney, W. G., et al. (2009). Helping students navigate the path to college: What high schools can do (NCEE Report No. 2009-4066). Institute of Education Sciences. Retrieved from:
Websites with Related Information
Key Reports and Research
County/Regional Reports
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