Post-secondary success for low-income IB students


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As the US prepares to celebrate International Education Week, the IB has released new research demonstrating that low-income students who participate in IB coursework, or who complete the IB Diploma Programme (DP), persist and graduate from college at a higher rate than low-income students who do not.

The research study was conducted by SRI International and incorporates findings from three sources: IB exam data from the IB information system (IBIS); National Student Clearinghouse college participation data; and qualitative data collected during five site visits to high schools serving large populations of low-income DP students.

Given the importance of a college education for employment and social mobility, policymakers and education leaders are attempting to strengthen the pipeline from high school completion through to college graduation.

U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan said, "As we observe the 16th annual International Education Week, it’s important to recognize the role education plays in promoting equity and opportunity for people in our country and around the world,” said. “Providing a high-quality education to all students is necessary to bridge the gap between those who have been traditionally underserved and their peers. That’s why, this year, we celebrate the theme of “International Education: Advancing Access for All.”

This study examines the postsecondary trajectories of low-income IB Diploma Programme (DP) students from US public schools. You can read the full report on the findings here. The research findings indicate that participation in the Diploma Programme helps to provide low-income students with the academic preparation required for post-secondary success.

Key findings include:

  • The DP grew rapidly from 2008 to 2014, with increases in both the absolute numbers of course students and diploma candidates, and the percentages of low-income students in each group. During this time period, the percentage of low-income diploma candidates grew from 15% to 23% and the percentage of low-income course students increased from 18% to 26%.
  • Regardless of whether they earned the diploma, low-income diploma candidates enrolled in colleges and universities at high rates. In the class of 2013, 82% of low-income diploma candidates enrolled in a two-year or four-year college immediately after finishing high school. In comparison, 46% of low-income students nationally enrolled immediately in a two- or four-year postsecondary institution.
  • One-year retention rates for low-income diploma candidates (87%) at four-year colleges and universities were close to those of their higher-income peers (92%) in 2013. By comparison, both low- and higher-income DP students had higher first year retention rates than students at four-year institutions nationally (77%).

The research does indicate a gap in the achievement of those who participate in some DP coursework, compared to those who complete the full Diploma Programme:

  • 70% of low-income course students in the 2013 cohort enrolled in a two- or four-year college immediately after high school. This compares to 82% of low-income DP candidates.
  • For course students, the retention rate gap between low-income and higher-income students increased from 6 percentage points after one year to 12 percentage points after two years
  • Less than a third (32%) of low-income course students in the 2008 cohort who immediately enrolled in college graduated within four years, although six-year graduation rates were higher (55%). Six-year graduation rates for low-income DP course students (55%) were similar to national six-year graduation rates (59%) and somewhat higher than six-year graduation rates for low-income students nationally (47%).

“The IB is dedicated to helping all students to reach their potential,” said Drew Deutsch, Regional Director for IB Americas. “This research provides tangible evidence of the value of an IB education and demonstrates that providing a rigorous academic programme helps students of all economic backgrounds to succeed at the highest levels.”

The IB has worked to ensure that all students have equal access to an education that prepares them for college and career. In 2014, the IB launched the “Bridging the Equity Gap” project, a $1.646 million project funded by the Michael & Susan Dell Foundation and the IB, aiming to increase the number of low-income students participating and succeeding in the IB Diploma Programme.