Something surprising, and rather unfortunate, appears to be happening to graduates of Baltimore public schools. They’re going to college, but they’re mostly going to colleges where they’re not likely to succeed.

According to an article by Erica Green in the Baltimore Sun:

The Baltimore Education Research Consortium at Johns Hopkins University found the percentage of city public school graduates heading to two-year-institutions rose 12 percentage points over four years to 52 percent in 2010, while the percentage of students enrolled in four-year-colleges declined 12 percentage points to 49 percent.

The consortium also found that only 5.8 percent of those who started at a two-year college earned a degree in six years compared with 34 percent of those at four-year-colleges.

Since so many high school graduates seem to be heading for college dropout factories, the report suggests that high school students need more help with guidance counseling. The report recommends that Maryland “ensure all students receive ongoing, systematic, and deliberate guidance towards a successful college application process.”

As Faith Connolly, executive director at the Baltimore Education Research Consortium, explained to Green: “Someone can be telling them to go to a two-year college because it’s cheaper— but not telling them that the likelihood of them finishing is minimal. I don’t think that conversation is taking place.”

Well yes, though this might be the wrong problem to address. It’s not clear more guidance counselors would really help Baltimore high school graduates finish their bachelors’ degrees on time. Perhaps these students are going to two years colleges just because these schools are cheaper. The recent tuition hike at Maryland public colleges probably doesn’t help this either.

It might be appropriate for guidance counselors to tell high school students that they’re more likely to finish if they attend four-year schools, but if the students can’t afford such schools that advice isn’t really useful, is it?

Read the full report here.

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Daniel Luzer is the news editor at Governing Magazine and former web editor of the Washington Monthly. Find him on Twitter: @Daniel_Luzer