How the project works:
1. A few months before graduation, seniors complete surveys detailing their family education background, perceptions of college readiness in different subject areas, study/work habits, the completion of key college preparation activities, such as submission of FAFSA and completing the Texas Common Application, and what they look for in a college.
2. Researchers link the senior surveys to administrative records, employment records, and actual post-graduation activities to develop a comprehensive analysis of programs and activities that increase the likelihood of students enrolling in college.
3. Students are followed up to four years after high school graduation to discover what activities help students succeed in college.
The data gathered gives school districts and postsecondary institutions insight on what seniors are doing after graduation and why they are making these decisions. Researchers discover trends among different student groups and develop reports for each ISD. School districts can utilize the information they receive to improve programs both district-wide and on a school-by-school basis. Counselors and educators can even use this information to target specific student groups in a way proven to get results. The ability to make data-based decisions helps educators and districts eliminate unproductive programs and focus limited resources on those specific, measurable activities that lead to higher enrollment. Postsecondary institutions can use senior surveys to discover what students are looking for in their quest for higher education. Of those students who enrolled in college, 64% went to a four-year university while 36% went to a two-year institution. In addition, only 14% of the 2008 graduates enrolled in an out-of-state institution.
Since 2005, over 27,000 seniors have been surveyed and followed after graduation. The number of districts participating in the project has more than doubled from the original four ISDs. Published reports and findings have already helped the Austin Chamber and participating ISDs focus on two areas shown to improve enrollment rates; completing the Texas Common Application and submitting a FAFSA application.