Insights from the Eighth-Grade Cohort Longitudinal Study

Just over one in five eighth graders from Texas public schools go on to graduate with a degree or certificate from a Texas institution of higher education. This is according to an annual study from the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board. The maps below present regional results from the latest analysis which tracked eighth graders from the 2007-08 school year through higher education for 11 years. The full analysis, including the methodology, is available on the Texas Higher Education Data website.

Higher education enrollment and completion rates for the eighth-grade cohort vary across regions in Texas. For example, in the El Paso region, 59% of students went on to enroll in higher education compared to only 49% in neighboring Midland. However, when looking at the rates at which students completed their studies and earned a higher education degree or certificate, the two regions were only one percentage point apart.

Eighth-Grade Cohort Higher Education Enrollment and Completion Rates for Each Region

The state’s strategic plan, 60x30TX, includes an annual completion goal of 550,000 certificates or degrees in 2030. The plan also identifies target populations: African American, Hispanic, economically disadvantaged, and male students. These groups enroll in college and complete a higher education credential at lower rates than the overall population. The following map shows completion rates among the target populations.

Completion Rates for Target Populations

The 20 regions on the map correspond to the Education Service Center (ESC) regions defined by the Texas Education Agency. The regions vary greatly in population density and in the racial and ethnic makeup of the eighth-grade cohort.

The following map presents information about the total student population and the percentage of African American, Hispanic, and economically disadvantaged students in each region. Hovering over a region reveals additional information including the number of students in the original cohort from each target group.

Distribution of Target Populations Across the State

The following two maps highlight the difference in enrollment and completion rates between target groups and the eighth-grade cohort overall. The percentage point (pp) difference provides a sense of how each target group lags, equals, or in some cases, surpasses the overall rates of enrollment or completion. For example, in the Austin region, about 53 percent of the eighth-graders went on to enroll in higher education, but among African Americans, the rate was about 52 percent, resulting in a difference in enrollment rates of -1 pp. Compare this to the -10 pp difference in completion rates for African Americans in the Austin region, where lest than 15 percent graduated, compared to over 24 percent for the region’s eighth-graders overall.

Percentage Point (pp) Difference in Enrollment Rates

Comparing target groups to the overall cohort

In the past, the Texas Higher Education Strategic Plan focused on getting more students into college. The new plan, 60x30TX, focuses on improving the rates at which students complete college and earn post-secondary credentials. The map below shows how completion rates for certain groups of students lag behind completion rates overall.

Given the investment in time and money that students put into higher education, not completing a credential can leave students burdened with debt and with little to show for it. Showing the difference between enrollment rates and completion rates provides a sense of how many students end up with the economic burden of paying for higher education without the benefits that come with a higher education credential.

Percentage Point (pp) Difference in Completion Rates

Comparing target groups to the overall cohort

For more information about the Eighth-Grade Cohort Longitudinal Study, contact John Dinning in Strategic Planning and Funding at the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board ( View the annotated python code here or visit the THECB GitHub site for instruction on how to create your own maps using data from the Texas Eighth-Grade Cohort Longitudinal Study.