Philadelphia Students Trail the National Average in College Enrollment, Study Finds

Knight Foundation-funded Research Identifies Ways to Improve College Graduation Rates for Students in Philadelphia ; Mayor's Office to Use Information to Continue to Drive Education Reform Efforts

PHILADELPHIA (Nov. 18) Less than half of Philadelphia public high school graduates – 49 percent – enroll in college, a new study has found. The figure is significantly lower than the national average of 69 percent.

Enrolling, though, is just one step in the long road towards a college degree. When students matriculate – and where – also affects whether Philadelphians will end up with a diploma, the research discovered.

OMG Center for Collaborative Learning conducted the study with funding from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation.

Among the findings:

  • Students who enroll in college directly after high school – instead of waiting – are more likely to remain enrolled one year later (76 percent versus 48 percent.)
  • Enrolling at a four-year institutions immediately after high school makes a student more likely to be studying one year later (81 percent versus 64 percent.)
  • Racial disparities are acute: White and Asian students who enroll directly after high school are more likely to get a degree (60 percent) than Hispanic and African-American students (38 percent.)

To view the full study, visit

“Getting in the college door – right after high school – is critical. But we’ve also found that there are other factors derailing the hopes of Philadelphia’s youth that need to be addressed,” said Meg Long, project director for OMG Center for Collaborative Learning, which conducted the study.

The study includes several recommendations for improving graduation rates. Among them: spreading a college-going culture to neighborhoods with low rates; preventing delayed enrollment; and giving greater support to enrolled students to prevent them from dropping out.

The City of Philadelphia will use the data to inform its campaign to increase college graduation rates.

“This study has already helped us understand the dimensions of the challenges we face as a city to get to our goal of 36% of adults earning a college degree. We are working collaboratively with our higher education and high school partners, as well as our Philly Goes 2 College office, to make sure that all Philadelphians understand that a college degree today is like the high school diploma of yesterday – an economic necessity,” said Dr. Lori Shorr, chief education officer for Mayor Michael Nutter.

Donna Frisby-Greenwood, Philadelphia program director for Knight Foundation, agreed that the issue should be tackled on all fronts.

“Increasing college graduation rates is essential to Philadelphia’s future prosperity,” Frisby-Greenwood said. “From teachers to business and civic leaders, people from across the community need to come together to reverse this trend.

About the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation

The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation advances journalism in the digital age and invests in the vitality of communities where the Knight brothers owned newspapers. Knight Foundation focuses on projects that promote informed and engaged communities and lead to transformational change. For more, visit


Contact: Marc Fest, Knight Foundation, 305-908-2677;

About the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation

Knight Foundation supports transformational ideas that promote quality journalism, advance media innovation, engage communities and foster the arts. We believe that democracy thrives when people and communities are informed and engaged. For more, visit