The report, entitled College Choice Report—Part 2: Enrollment Patterns is published by American College Testing (ACT). The test is taken by American high school graduates that want to enter college. The research shows that graduates taking the ACT college readiness assessment in 2012 attended college a median distance of 51 miles from their home.
The higher the score the larger the median distance to college, the research showed. Students with test scores between 33 and 36 – 36 is the maximum score – had a median distance to college of 170 miles. In contrast, students who earned an ACT composite score below 24 attended college a median distance of less than 50 miles from home.
First-generation students live close by
A similar relationship exists between the education level of the student’s parents and the distance traveled to college: the higher the parent’s level of education, the farther away students went to attend college. Among first-generation college students, the median distance to college was just 24 miles.
“Better educated parents tend to have greater financial resources, but they may also have more knowledge of college application facts and resources to share with their children than do less educated parents who have not been through that experience themselves,” said Jon Erickson, ACT president of education. “We must take steps to better inform all students and their families of the variety of options available to them.”
High aspiration, more distance
ACT findings suggest that student awareness plays a major role in this phenomenon. Students were asked how far from home they preferred to attend college. Four out of five ACT-tested graduates ended up attending a college that matched their expressed location preference. The research also showed that students with higher aspirations typically attended college farther from home.
“Our findings complement those of a recently released paper by The Hamilton Project, which suggested that high-achieving, low-income students don’t always take advantage of all of the existing postsecondary opportunities,” said Steve Kappler, head of postsecondary strategy for ACT.
“Students may be selecting a small choice set and sticking to that set without exploring all of the options available to them. We must help students understand that the colleges that best fit their needs and interests may be ones they have never even heard of.”