Exploring Academic Horizons: Hartford Promise Scholars In-State vs. Out-of-State College Success Stories

by Pom Somchanmavon and Tony Ortega

Last updated on December 4th, 2023

for Data Visualization for All
with Prof. Jack Dougherty
Trinity College, Hartford CT, USA


The Hartford Promise is designed to empower students from Hartford, Connecticut, by providing them with the necessary resources and support to pursue higher education. Participants in this program are typically high school students from Hartford who meet specific academic and attendance criteria. Such as the following; attending a Hartford public high school continuously since 9th grade, being a Hartford resident throughout high school, having a 93% or better cumulative attendance record during high school, and having a 3.0 cumulative GPA or better on a 4.0 scale in high school. The program aims to improve access to college education for these students, many of whom might face financial or social barriers to higher education. By offering scholarships and additional support, Hartford Promise seeks to level the educational playing field, giving these students a better chance at college success. The program is a significant step towards educational equity, aiming to provide more opportunities for students who might otherwise be unable to pursue higher education due to various constraints.

Our story focuses on analyzing the successful completion rates of a bachelor’s degree of Hartford Promise students at in-Connecticut colleges versus out-of-Connecticut colleges. This is significant as it helps us understand how geographic location and the type of institution impact the academic outcomes of these students. Furthermore, this comparison is essential in determining the effectiveness of educational policies and support systems in Connecticut compared to other states. It is possible that students who remain in-state benefit more from the familiar environment and local support networks that lead them to have a higher successful completion rate than other states, or vice versa. Preliminary findings from an analysis of the academic outcomes of Hartford Promise students reveal a notable trend: students who attend colleges within Connecticut tend to have a higher rate of successful degree completion compared to their counterparts attending institutions outside of the state.



Looking the starters for a Bachelor's degree, our findings suggest that Hartford Promise students prefer to attend 4-year institutions in the East Coast area. Furthermore, our data finds no evidence of Hartford Promise students attending a university or college in the West Coast area. Hence, our map focusing on the East Coast of the United States map and having grey states for the states that had no evidence.

Figure 1: BA Starter at 4-year institutions Count by State Map

Findings from The Hartford Promise program's recent enrollment data present a total of 254 students, referred to as starters, enrolled in the program. Of these, 173 students attend 4-year colleges, pursuing a Bachelor’s degree. In Connecticut, a significant majority of these students, numbering 180, chose to attend colleges within the state, where 129 or 74.5% students pursued their studies at 4-year colleges. In contrast, 44 students or 25.4% ventured out of Connecticut for their higher education and chose to attend a 4-year college outside the states. This data highlights clear preferences and trends among Hartford Promise students in their choice of institution type and location.

Figure 2: BA Starter at 4-year institutions Count by State Chart


The overall rate of Hartford Promise students who earned a Bachelor's Degree is around 50%. When we focus on the students who started at and completed degrees from 4-year institutions, the rate is 74%. This is higher than the overall rate as some students in our dataset started at 2-year institutions for an Associate's Degree or a certificate program, which they will not be counted for the calculation of a Bachelor's Degree completion rate.

Comparing in-state and out-of-state completion rate, We found that the completion rate in Connecticut is 70% while it is 86% for out-of-state colleges. However, these should be interpreted with caution due to the difference in sample size. For Connecticut, with more students participating, the completion rate may offer a more accurate picture of students' educational journeys in the program. For other states (out-of-state), the completion rate varies, with some of these states also displaying much lower starter counts compared to Connecticut. This discrepancy in starter counts could influence the interpretation of completion rates, as smaller sample sizes may yield higher completion percentages, which may not be representative of broader trends. The data suggests a potential correlation between the number of starters and the completion rate, wherein a higher number of participants might naturally lead to a more varied completion rate. States with fewer starters tend to show high completion rates. Understanding the enrollment and completion trends within the Hartford Promise program is crucial for tailoring educational support and resources. The data highlights the program's effectiveness on completion rates. Informing how best to allocate funding and guidance services.

Figure 3: BA Completion Rate for HP students who started and completed at 4-year institutions, in-state vs. out-of-state

When examining the completion rates for each state, it becomes apparent that several states have a 100% completion rate, albeit with much smaller sample sizes. For instance, in District of Columbia, one student started and completed, marking a completion rate of 100%. Similarly, in Kentucky, Maine, New Jersey, Tennessee, Rhode Island, and Virginia, every student who started a program also completed it, though these states had a total of one or two starters, except Massachusetts with 20 starters and a completion rate of 85%. As well as Pennsylvania with 83%, yet still not a valid comparison due to the difference in sample size (6 students). That being said, it is important to consider both the completion rates and the number of starters. States with a small number of starters may show a 100% completion rate, however, we need to consider the possibility of having a measurement error due to the small sample size.

Figure 4: BA Completion Rate for HP students who started and completed at 4-year institutions by State

Overall, the data indicates that while the completion rates are quite high in many states, the sample sizes are relatively small, which could affect the reliability of the percentage as an indicator of the overall trend. Furthermore, this would require further investigation to understand the underlying factors contributing to these outcomes. However, to fully understand the implications of these findings, more context and analysis would be necessary, including factors like what type of high school a student attended, private or public, gender, socioeconomic class, etc. Some underlying factors, that were not included in our data, can be the scenario of out-of-state students at private institutions, who might benefit from better financial aid and support resources, contributing to their higher success rates. Additionally, the potential influence of unaccounted family support or financial stability, particularly for students studying out-of-state, cannot be overlooked.


Our data came from Hartford Promise private data source that will remain anonymous. While HP provided individual de-identified data, we promised not to share the raw data with the public to ensure privacy. Other researchers who wish to examine the raw data should request it directly from HP. We used this data to calculate the successful completion rate and generate pivot tables and visualizations.The successful completion rate is determined by the percentage of students who have successfully finished their 4-year college education and obtained a bachelor's degree regardless of how long it may have taken. To calculate this, we focus on the ratio of the number of students who have earned a bachelor's degree to the total number of students who initially enrolled in the program. This metric effectively measures the effectiveness of the program in facilitating students' academic success. Our research has a some limitations as the accuracy of the findings is compromised by incomplete data, including numerous "N/A" entries and undetermined degree categories. There could also be other underlying factors that are not included in our data. These gaps highlight the need for more detailed data to support accurate analysis.

Pivot Tables

After receiving the data, we conducted a pivot table that generated the total number of enrollments or starters in each state. We also broke down the data by adding 2 years and 4 years of college in the columns, which will help us see the breakdown of the total enrollment of students in 4 years of college. We used a filter to show only 1 instance, which is where students start their first semester. After this process, we noticed that the total enrollment in Connecticut was significantly higher than in the other states; therefore, we chose to express it in percentages in order to normalize the data and make meaningful comparisons. To find the number of students who completed their Bachelor’s degrees, we also created a pivot table showing the total number of degrees earned in each state, which we filtered out other types of degrees and only showed Bachelor’s degrees. These pivot tables allow us to calculate the completion rate across different states and make meaningful comparisons of the successful completion between Connecticut colleges and out-of-Connecticut colleges.

Visualization and Figures

To effectively present the educational data, we utilized two distinct bar charts. The first chart displays the number of students who commenced their degrees, offering a clear visual representation of initial enrollments. The second chart, complementing the first, showcases the count of students who successfully completed their degrees, thus providing insight into graduation rates/ completion. Additionally, we employed two choropleth maps to enrich our analysis. This map vividly illustrates the percentage of students, both those who started and those who completed their degrees, across various states in the USA. The use of color gradients in the choropleth map effectively highlights geographical variations in educational attainment, enabling an easy comparison between different regions. This combination of bar charts and a choropleth map offers a comprehensive and multifaceted view of the educational landscape in the United States, shedding light on patterns of both enrollment and completion across in-state and out-of-state.


“Hartford Promise.” HARTFORD PROMISE, www.hartfordpromise.org/. Accessed 30 Nov. 2023.