College Access in Baltimore: A Decade of College-Going Among City Schools Graduates

College Access in Baltimore: A Decade of College-Going Among City Schools Graduates

By Rachel E. Durham, Zyrashae Smith-Onyewu, Curt Cronister, Nathaniel Dewey and Marc L. Stein

This report summarizes trends in college-related outcomes among City Schools graduates over a ten-year timespan, from 2011 to 2020. The data presented centers on core activities in accessing college, from applying for admission and financial aid, to college enrollment, and ultimately, degree completion.

We acknowledge that pursuing postsecondary education is but one path to independent adulthood. Many young adults wish to engage in other types of training and  preparation that are not represented in this report, such as apprenticeships, on-the-job training, and military service.

However, research concludes that individuals with at least some college education have higher lifetime earnings, better health outcomes, and greater civic  engagement. Moreover, higher education attainment in the aggregate yields benefits for the local economy and greater well-being for the community. We thus offer the data in this report as one means of monitoring opportunity for Baltimore youth and Baltimore City as a whole.

This digest is part of a planned series of annual BERC reports. The purpose of these reports will be to provide understanding of students’ educational experiences in City Schools. 

This work was led by BERC researchers in partnership with City Schools staff in the Office of Career and College Readiness.



Examining 10 consecutive cohorts of City Schools graduates, from 2011 through 2020, the share enrolling in college the first fall after high school has consistently been below 50%.  Beginning with the class of 2015, more graduates have started their postsecondary studies at four-year rather than two-year colleges. The percent of graduates who enrolled in college, and where they enrolled, differ systematically by the type of high school students attended.

On average, between 40% – 45% of City Schools graduates completed applications to at least three colleges. Slightly more than half of all City Schools graduates completed the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA).

Six years after high school graduation, between 25% – 30% of graduates who fall-enrolled completed some type of college degree. Most completions were bachelor’s degrees. Less than 15% of those who fall-enrolled at two-year colleges completed either a one-year certificate or associate degree; 6% or less transferred and completed a bachelor’s degree within six years.