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A Trickle or a Torrent? Understanding the Extent of Summer “Melt” Among College-Intending High School Graduates

Ben Castleman () and Lindsay C. Page

Social Science Quarterly, 2014, vol. 95, issue 1, 202-220

Abstract: type="main">

The object of this study was to examine whether college-intending, low-income high school graduates are particularly susceptible to having their postsecondary education plans change, or even fall apart, during the summer after high school graduation. College access research has largely overlooked this time period. Yet, previous research indicates that a sizeable share of low-income students who had paid college deposits reconsidered where, and even whether, to enroll in the months following graduation. We assess the extent to which this phenomenon—commonly referred to as “summer melt”—is broadly generalizable.

We employ two data sources, a national survey and administrative data from a large metropolitan area, and regression analysis to estimate the prevalence of summer melt.

Our analyses reveal summer melt rates of sizeable magnitude: ranging from 8 to 40 percent.

Our results indicate that low-income, college-intending students experience high rates of summer attrition from the college pipeline. Given the goal of improving the flow of low-income students to and through college, it is imperative to investigate how to effectively intervene and mitigate summer melt.

Date: 2014
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