Class of 2009 Six Years Later

by Rachel E. Durham & Faith Connolly

In a series of briefs, BERC presents research describing the educational and workforce outcomes of Baltimore graduates six years after graduation. We focus on the class of 2009 as it is the most recent graduating class for whom outcomes after six years (through age 24) can be observed. To conduct this research, BERC partnered with Baltimore’s Promise, the Institute for Education Policy, and the Maryland Longitudinal Data System (MLDS). We strongly encourage readers to visit the methodology brief to learn about the strengths and limitations of the data used in this research.

Each brief provides a snapshot of different parts of graduates’ trajectories and focus on one or all of these four outcomes: (1) enrolling in college, (2) completing a college degree, (3) median annual income, and (4) earning a livable wage.

The Fall After High School In that first fall after graduation, what did graduates do? We find that more than half (52%) were in college, yet 26% were not found in either college enrollment or Maryland wage records.

Earnings and Degree Completion. In the second brief, we examine graduates’ earnings after six years, and find that graduates with degrees earned substantially more than those who did not. The median annual income for youth with a bachelor’s degree was $18,968, whereas median income among those who had never enrolled in college was  $13,374.

Starting in a 4-Year College. In the third brief, we followed the graduates who started in a 4-year college in the fall after high school. These graduates were the most likely to earn a degree (32%) within six years. About 24% were earning a livable wage. In contrast, fewer than one-in-ten of those with no college experience earned a livable wage.

Not in School and Not Working. In the fourth brief, we focus on the graduates who were neither in college nor in Maryland wage records the first fall after high school. We find that about a third (38%) enrolled in college at some point, and most joined the workforce (78%), with about 9% earning a livable wage.

High School Type.  In the fifth brief, we examine whether college enrollment, degree completion, earnings, or the likelihood of making a livable wage differ according to the type of high school from which students graduated. We found that 32% of youth who graduated from entrance criteria schools completed degrees, compared to 6% of graduates of other high school types.

Gender and Race. The sixth brief looks at outcomes by gender and race. We find that regardless of race, female graduates were more likely to have enrolled in college (75%) than males (66%). However, non-African-American male (26%) and non-African-American female graduates (32%) were more likely to have completed a degree than African American male (8%) or female graduates (12%).

Receipt of Services. The seventh brief explores outcomes by high school service receipt defined as lower income (eligible for free and reduced-price meals) or receiving special education services. Students from lower income families were just as likely to enroll in college as the cohort average (72%), but slightly less likely to complete a degree (10% versus 12%).  In contrast, about 3% of graduates who received special education services completed a college degree within six years.

Discussion and Recommendations

Our findings raise more questions than they answer. We also acknowledge that the first six years after high school graduation is a relatively short period of time for these young adults to have achieved economic stability or independence. However, identifying areas in which the city can strengthen requires that we understand the opportunities that Baltimore’s emerging adults availed themselves of when they graduated from high school, and how those experiences connect to their economic well-being. The results point to ways that the high school-to-postsecondary transition in Baltimore might be smoothed.

We hope that the findings from this research can be the basis of a fruitful conversation about what experiences and opportunities City Schools students should have in high school to be successful young adults, as well as what future research would be most useful for Baltimore stakeholders.

From the findings we suggest the following recommendations:

  • Accountability reporting for K12 and postsecondary institutions should include transition-to-work metrics on employment and wages earned after completion. This could better enable students to understand how credentials can translate into gainful employment.
  • Counseling for students in middle and high school should focus on careers of interest and their associated pathways. Students should also be provided detailed information about what specific coursework, grades, and credentials they will need to progress towards their chosen careers.
  • Conversations with youth should also include wage and salary expectations for different career pathways, what a livable wage means, and how earnings for particular jobs measure up against that threshold.

Read more from Baltimore’s Promise and the Institute for Education Policy.   We would like to thank the Jacob and Hilda Blaustein Foundation for supporting dissemination.


Originally published April 2018