Scholar Enrollment During the COVID-19 Pandemic
by Sam Rauschenberg and Sweta Vivek
In fall 2020, Achieve Atlanta (AATL) welcomed its fifth cohort of Scholars as first-year college students (Cohort 2020). Given the unique circumstances of enrolling during the COVID-19 pandemic, the enrollment patterns of this cohort are distinct from previous cohorts. The following report highlights enrollment patterns and insights for this class, compared to previous cohorts and national enrollment data.
Achieve Atlanta Scholars are Atlanta Public Schools high school graduates who have earned a need-based scholarship to pursue various postsecondary paths after high school. A Scholar must graduate with a cumulative, weighted GPA of at least 75, demonstrate financial need, and enroll full-time in an eligible college, university or technical program.
Here are some key takeaways, listed below:
- Last fall, Achieve Atlanta welcomed 774 Scholars into its incoming 2020 cohort. While this represented a 5% decrease from the 2019 cohort, it was smaller than the 11% nationwide reduction in size for low-income students in the class of 2020.
- The share of first-year Scholars enrolling in four-year degree programs increased from 74% to 88%. Much of this shift is likely due to most colleges and universities waiving SAT/ACT testing requirements and minimums for admissions. These institutions tend to have higher persistence and graduation rates than two-year or technical institutions.
- Despite enrolling in institutions with higher persistence rates, 76% of Cohort 2020 Scholars returned for the spring semester, 12 percentage points lower than for Cohort 2019.
- In contrast to first-year Scholars, those enrolled in college prior to the pandemic had similar enrollment patterns to past years.
- Given the significant drop in persistence from fall to spring for Cohort 2020 Scholars, AATL is collaborating closely with our non-profit and college partners to re-engage those students and help them return to college in fall 2021.