Two girls who are college students sit on their front porch with face masks on. They are doing homework on their laptops.

The COVID-19 pandemic and the shift to virtual learning created an unprecedented context for high school and college students who had to navigate new learning structures amidst immense health, financial, and emotional challenges. This brief provides data on the extent to which the patterns in college enrollment and retention for CPS graduates changed in 2020, after the pandemic caused a shift to a remote setting for high school and college students during the spring.

Below, you can download the research brief, read the high-level summary of the brief on Medium, or watch the recordings of the research release webinar and accompanying panel discussion.

College During the Pandemic Report Cover

Download the brief: College During the Pandemic


In the absence of reliable data, practitioners and policymakers have been forced to make assumptions about what happened to the class of 2020 and previous classes of CPS graduates currently in college. Our goal with this report is to test these assumptions and to see what we can learn from the initial data on 2020 enrollment and retention.

Two girls who are college students sit on their front porch with face masks on. They are doing homework on their laptops.

Three Implications from Our Report on CPS College Enrollment and Retention During the Pandemic


Our accompanying blog post on Medium provides a high-level summary of the major findings in the brief. 

2020 College Enrollment and Retention of CPS Graduates During the Pandemic

Watch the research release webinar

On April 27, the To&Through Project and UChicago Consortium shared findings from a new report examining the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on Chicago Public Schools (CPS) graduates’ immediate college enrollment and retention rates during the fall of 2020.

Dr. Heidi Truax, Executive Director of the Office of School Counseling and Postsecondary Advising, shared observations about the implications of the research findings for practice.

Supporting College Enrollment & Retention During the Pandemic

Watch the panel discussion

On April 28, the To&Through Project and the Partnership for College Completion hosted a panel discussion for a deeper look at the practices and policies that led Northern Illinois University (NIU) and Western Illinois University (WIU) to see significant increases in 2020 enrollment and retention for CPS graduates.

The panel included leaders from NIU and WIU who reflected on their responses to the challenges that arose for students during the pandemic.