The University of Texas at Austin

High Minority, High Poverty High School Graduates in Higher Education


Congratulations to the research team! Our article was published in the August 2011 issue of the Journal of Advanced Academics. Here is the cite:

Reddick, R. J., Welton, A. D., Alsandor, D. J., Denyszyn, J. L., & Platt, C. S. (2011). Stories of success: High minority, high poverty public school graduate narratives on accessing higher education. Journal of Advanced Academics, 22(4), 594-618. doi: 10.1177/1932202X11414133


Research Team: Dr. Danielle J. Alsandor, Jodi L. Denyszyn, C. Spencer Platt, & Dr. Anjale D. Welton

While college attendance and completion rates for students of color have increased since court-mandated desegregation and the advent of civil rights legislation in the United States (National Center for Education Statistics, 2002, 2005a, 2005b), researchers have identified worrisome trends in achievement for students of color in high-minority, high-poverty (HMHP) schools (Orfield & Lee, 2005; Orfield, Lee, & Civil Rights Project, 2006). Students in these schools are less likely to graduate and attend college than their peers in wealthier schools (Horn, Chen, & Adelman, 1998; Orfield & Lee, 2005).

These findings are applicable across the nation, including the state of Texas. In our state’s capital city, four of the 11 high schools in the Austin Independent School District (AISD) report non-White populations greater than 50 percent, as well as rates for free and reduced lunch greater than 75 percent: Johnston, Lanier, Reagan, and Travis High Schools (SchoolMatters, 2007; Zuckerbrod, 2007). A significant number of students are served at these schools, termed as “dropout factories” in a recent Johns Hopkins/Associated Press study (Zuckerbrod, 2007). While recognizing the importance of focusing attention on the immense challenges these schools face, one wonders how such an appellation affects the motivation and attitudes of students considering postsecondary educational options at schools such as these. It is also important to understand how students at schools that have been labeled as “low performing” or “at-risk” find pathways to collegiate success.

Previous research indicates peer and parental encouragement to attend college, engagement in extracurricular activities, and college outreach programs, including assistance with entrance exams and financial aid, are all factors that increase the chances of “at-risk” youth will attend college (Horn et al., 1998). Their experiences may identify successful strategies on the institutional and individual level of importance to all students – but especially those who attend schools with similar descriptors.

Further study is needed to examine the postsecondary trajectories of students from high-minority, high-poverty high schools. Despite graduating from schools where postsecondary education may have been emphasized less than their peers in wealthier schools, where do these students find support for their collegiate endeavors?