Prior work has demonstrated that debate is associated with academic achievement in high school. Whether debate in high school is predictive of better college outcomes beyond its established relationship with promoting college readiness as indicated by the ACT is unknown. This research examines and evaluates the impact of participating in a high school debate program on college matriculation and completion. Data come from a cohort of 6,411 high school graduates from the Chicago Public School system, 26% of whom participated in the Chicago Debate League, from 1997 to 2007. Logistic regression was used to estimate the relationship between debate participation and college matriculation, type of college attended, and college graduation, with college-readiness, as indicated by performance on the ACT, examined as a mediating variable. Debaters were more likely to matriculate to college, particularly to 4-year versus 2-year institutions, than comparison students and these relationships were largely explained by debaters’ better performance on the ACT. However, debate was not associated with higher likelihood of graduating from college.
Key words: College attainment, debate, urban education, extracurricular activities, mediation.
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