Thursday, January 28, 2016


In December, 2015, Dr. Cathleen McHugh, Principal Research Analyst for the Idaho Board of Education, published a fascinating  paper entitled "Idaho's Gender Gap in Go-on Rates". In the paper, Dr. McHugh examined the gap between females and males in college attendance at various time lapse periods (1 year, 2 years, and 3 years) after high school graduation. She found a persistent gap between genders, and also found that the gap widened in particular regions of the state after the change in age eligibility for LDS missions with the high school class of 2013.

This study was interesting because of some related research we have been doing about the college graduates from the high school classes of 2008-11. In short, we found a gender gap between females and males in the percentage that have graduated from college.

We also examined majors of the 4-year college graduates from the 2008-11 high school classes, and found some interesting information. For example, though many more females graduated than males overall, that was not the case with Engineering graduates:

More and more females are entering into medical fields, according to data from the Association of American Medical Colleges. In 1965, the percentage of females graduating from medical school was 
6.5. In 1995 it was 39.2%, and in 2013-14 females made up 47.5% of medical school graduates.

In particular fields, women now represent the majority of medical residents. For example, 54.9% of 2013-14 residents in Family Medicine and 70.6% of residents in Pediatrics were female,

In most pre-medical and medical fields, the landscape of Boise Schools majors is dominated by females. The vast majority of nursing majors (95%) are females, and three-quarters of Exercise Science grads are women. The same pattern emerges,in the fields of Biology and Psychology:

Finally, in the Business field, just over half of the graduates are male.

Friday, January 8, 2016


In studying the college majors of Boise District college grads for the high school classes of 2008-11, we came across some interesting information about patterns of majors at the institutions a majority of District students attend - Boise State University and the University of Idaho.

About 46% of 2008-11 District grads in those classes graduated with BA/BS degrees from the two institutions - 27 percent from BSU and 18% from the University of Idaho.

Boise State University

It's not surprising that so many BSU graduates major in the Health and Wellness field, what with two large hospital systems within the city limits. In fact, one can see that focus in the list of top majors from BSU.

Health Science was the single most popular major among Boise grads from BSU, with Biology the second most popular choice. Though Nursing did not make the top ten list, it wasn't far off - 14 bachelor degrees in Nursing were earned by District students.

University of Idaho

For the University of Idaho, we see a considerably different picture:

Over a third of Idaho's grads major in STEM fields, a percentage far higher than that of the graduated population as a whole (27%).  Very few Idaho grads have majored in a Communications area, especially as compared with BSU.

Here's the list of top majors among Boise District grads of the University of Idaho.

Note that Mechanical Engineering was the second most popular major among the UI grads. That was a bit of a shocker to us, but considering that Idaho's Engineering program is well-established and that the STEM promotion programs have been in place for some years now, perhaps it should not be so surprising. 

Thursday, January 7, 2016


In December 2014 we posted an article detailing the college majors of Boise District students from the high school graduating classes of 2007-10.  In this post, we've updated the data, dropping off the class of 2007, adding the class of 2011, and considering additional degrees and certificates earned by students in the classes of 2008, 2009, and 2010.

Of the District students who earned degrees and certificates, 89% attained Bachelor's degrees, 8% received Associate degrees, and 4% earned certificates, as reported by the National Student Clearinghouse. We believe that certificates are under-reported, since a number of the for-profit colleges in the Treasure Valley and beyond are not included in the Clearinghouse reports.  Notably, the majority of the reported certificates in our database were from Carrington College in Boise.

Majors By Field

The largest percentage of Boise Schools' college graduates' majors continues to be in the areas of Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM), with 26.7% of students majoring in one of these fields. The percentage of students majoring in STEM is up .5% since we last did the analysis.

The Major Area with the largest growth is Health and Wellness, which was at 12.2% of majors for the classes of 2007-10 and now stands at 15.5%. Social Science majors are down about 3%, falling 
from 25.6% of the total to 22.4%. Other major areas are relatively static.

Individual Majors

Next we looked at the top 30 majors of Boise District college graduates. There were some interesting changes in the data.

Among the ten most popular majors, Health Science (+16)  and Nursing (+13) showed considerable growth, as did Psychology (+28),  Mechanical Engineering (+15), and Biology (+34). In light of the fact that the Idaho Department of Labor predicts that Health care and Social Assistance jobs will see the highest net growth in Idaho through the year 2022, the increases in majors in Health Science, Nursing, and Biology make some sense.

It's interesting that many sources indicate that, at least for fields like medicine, the student's undergraduate major makes less difference than does the grades a student achieves in his/her undergrad program. Here is an article about medical school admission that makes this point, and another in which a different approach to recruiting medical school students is described.

Graduate Degrees

We had not realized that the National Student Clearinghouse would provide for us bonus material - the higher level degrees earned by students who have already graduated from college. Though this data comes from the high school graduating classes of 2008-11, most of the graduate degrees have been earned by students in the class of 2008.

The graduate degrees earned by these students include:

  • Juris Doctor (law) degrees: 9
  • Master's Degrees: 73
    • Accounting - 9
    • Engineering - 11
    • Architecture - 3
    • Education - 6
    • Social Work - 2
    • Business - 4

Still Enrolled After All These Years

According to the National Students Clearinghouse, among the members of the Class of 2008 who attended college, 229 (12.2% of the graduating class) are still enrolled in college, at the beginning of the 2015-16 school year, their eighth year after high school graduation.

One hundred seventy-nine were "retained" after year seven, meaning they continued their enrollment, while 47 returned after a "stop out", and 9 were new to college. 

In the research we did about the returning students, we found these characteristics:
  • 60% had attended more than one college.
  • 20% had attended three or more colleges.
  • Most had taken time off during college at some point.
  • Most had several semesters when they were not full-time students.
Forty percent of the returning college students are enrolled at Boise State University. For those BSU students, half had attended multiple colleges, and most had been part-time for multiple semesters.

In the next Data Points post, an analysis of the majors at the two institutions from which most Boise District students graduate - Boise State University and the University of Idaho.



Sometimes, people make claims about the quality of this program or that in preparing students for college, as if the unique program (International Baccalaureate, for example) does a better job of preparing students to access "elite" colleges than the opportunities offered in the Boise District.

The fact is that Boise District students who have achieved excellent grades and taken their share of music, art, and Advanced Placement coursework can attend college anywhere they choose. Many are restricted, obviously, by cost and perhaps by proximity.

Most students from the Boise School District who have earned a Bachelor's degree attended Boise State University or the University of Idaho. Here's a compilation of the 30 colleges from which Boise District students in the classes of 2008-11 received 10 or more Bachelor's degrees.

As you can see, each of the 30 colleges is in the west, and 2/3 are public colleges and universities. It's interesting to note the popularity of the University of Utah and the University of Oregon, and of Gonzaga University in Spokane. 

However, over 350 Boise students have attended and graduated from some of the other most respected out-of-state colleges and universities in the country. Here's a sampling of those colleges.

California - Santa Clara University, University of San Francisco, University of San Diego, Pepperdine University, Stanford University, USC, UCLA, Harvey Mudd College, Pomona College

Colorado - Colorado College, Colorado School of Mines, University of Denver

Connecticut - Wesleyan University, Yale University

District of Columbia - Georgetown University, George Washington University

Georgia - Emory University

Illinois - DePaul University, Northwestern University

Indiana - Purdue University

Massachusetts - Tufts University, Brown University, Harvard University, Amherst College, Boston University, Bowdoin College, Wellesley College

Maryland - Johns Hopkins University

Maine - Colby College

Missouri - Washington University, St Louis University

North Carolina - Duke University, Wake Forest University

New Jersey - Princeton University

New York - Cornell University, Vassar College, New York University, Rochester Institute of Technology

Ohio - Case Western Reserve University, Denison University

Oregon - Reed College, Lewis and Clark College, Pacific University, Linfield College

Pennsylvania - University of Pennsylvania, Lehigh University, Swarthmore College, Villanova University

South Carolina - Clemson University

Texas - Rice University, Baylor University

Virginia - Washington and Lee University, College of William and Mary

Washington - Pacific Lutheran University, Seattle University, Seattle Pacific University

Wow! That's quite a list of colleges, each in its own way requiring strong preparation for attendance and graduation.

Next, a look at the undergraduate degrees earned by students in the classes of 2008-11, and at the students from the class of 2008 who are still enrolled in a degree program, 7 years after high school graduation.

Friday, January 1, 2016


Happy New Year! Hopefully, your Christmas and New Year's holidays were enjoyable and restful.

The National Student Clearinghouse (NSC) provides excellent data for us about college-going and college graduation trends among our high school graduates.We have been using the Clearinghouse, which supplies data from about 94% of colleges nationwide, since the class of 2007. So we have 9 graduating classes which are now in the database.

NSC provides information about each class for the first 8 years after high school. So we have complete data for the class of 2007, 7 years for the class of 2008, 6 years for the class of 2009, and so on.

NSC does not provide information about students who join the military or go on church missions. However, we presume that many students in each category enter some form of post-secondary education after their service to the country or to their church. It's one reason why, especially in Idaho, the percentage of students who graduate from  post-secondary training opportunities grows after year 6, or even after year 7 or 8. We wrote about this phenomenon in an earlier post.

Here is an update of Boise District college-going trends.

Direct to College

As indicated, many Idaho students serve missions or join the military after high school. From research our counselors have done, we think that this affects Boise's college-going rate by about 3-4 percent each year. It appears that the percentage is higher in other parts of the state, and especially in eastern Idaho.

You can see that the District percentage has steadily increased since we started tracking data. Idaho's percentage dropped from the class of 2008 to the class of 2010. but we don't yet have any national data after the class of 2010. That 45% Direct Enrollment rate for the class of 2010 was the lowest in the nation.

Here are the trends for the 4 comprehensive Boise high schools. Note that relative income levels of the student population also play a role in the college-going rates. Timberline and Boise have higher go-on rates than do Borah and Capital, and lower rates of free/reduced lunch among the student population. Each of the high schools has seen an increase in the Direct to College rates since the class of 2007.

College-Going Rates Within 1 year of Graduation

NSC also tracks this data, which allows us to see how the trends develop one year after high school graduation.

The district and school trends pretty much follow those of direct entry, with percentages increasing a bit as more students try college for the first time.

College Going Rates Within 2 Years of Graduation

Though the patterns look similar, it's important to note that the percentage of students who enroll in college within two years of high school graduation is almost 10% higher than that of Direct Entry. For example,  60% of the class of 2013 enrolled in college directly out of high school. In 2015, the percentage is 70.  Since 1,754 students graduated in the class, about 175 additional students enrolled after the fall of 2013. Note also that the percentage enrolling has increased by 7 from the class of 2007 to the class of 2015.

For the high schools, it's interesting to note that Capital's 2 year enrollment has gone from 60% for the class of 2007 to 73% for the class of 2015.  Though the 2 year enrollment trend has increased at all 4 high schools, Capital's improvement is especially impressive. Also, Boise High's 2 year enrollment percentage has been above 80% for the last two high school graduating classes.

So the improvements in college enrollment are consistent for Direct Enrollment and 1 and 2 years after college. But how does that play out in terms of college graduation? That will be the subject of the next post on Data Points.