2018 College-Going Rates for Alabama High Schools

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This brief continues PARCA’s tradition of reporting college-going rates for Alabama and its local systems and schools.

The percentage of high school graduates in Alabama enrolling in college after graduating in 2018 remained the same as the graduating class of 2017, at 62%. The number and percentage attending two-year colleges slightly increased. The number and percentage of recent graduates entering four-year colleges both slightly decreased.

The data, drawn by ACHE from the National Student Clearinghouse, follows Alabama public high school students who graduated in the spring of 2018 and enrolled in higher education in the fall or spring of 2019. The data includes records for in-state and out-of-state institutions, both public and private.

Over the past five years, the college-going rates for Alabama’s high school graduates have declined slightly. In 2014, the first year this set of statistics was produced, 65% of high school graduates enrolled in college the year after their graduation. In both 2017 and 2018, 62% of graduates enrolled.

At the same though, the size of the senior classes has been larger and graduation rates have been higher. That has produced more high school graduates going into college.

While 2018’s 62% college-going rate is tied for the lowest rate over this five year period, the actual number of graduates enrolling in college increased in 2018 compared to 2017. Only in 2016 did more students attend college, 31,414 in 2016, compared to 31, 337 students in 2018.

At the same time though, the larger classes of seniors and higher graduation rates have resulted in greater numbers of students graduating with a high school diploma but not immediately continuing their education. Among graduates of the Class of 2018, 19,191 did not enroll in higher education after graduating high school.

After a dip in 2017, the number of students going to community colleges increased while fewer attended four-year institutions.

Alabama’s public high school graduating class of 2018 totaled 50, 528, which is 764 students more than the Class of 2017. Among those graduates, 16,085 (32%), enrolled in a two-year community college, according to the data. That’s 951 students more than the previous year and the highest number over the past five years.

Enrollment of graduates in four-year colleges decreased from 15,804 in 2017 to 15,252 in 2018, down 552 students (30% of graduates). The total number going to public 4-year colleges in Alabama dipped by 122. The overwhelming majority, 93% of those who enrolled, went to Alabama institutions, and 92% to a public college or university.

The remaining 19,191 high school graduates, 38% of graduates, were not found to have enrolled in higher education. That’s an increase of 365 in the number of students graduating from high school but not enrolling in higher education the following year.

Local Systems and Schools

It is helpful to explore results for individual schools and school systems, which sometimes tells you more about what’s happening underneath the statewide aggregated view.

Additional charts focus on the percentage of students attending four-year colleges by system and school, and the percentage attending two-year colleges at the system and school level, as well as change over time.

The top five systems sending students to four-year colleges includes:

  • Mountain Brook City: 86%
  • Vestavia Hills: 79%
  • Homewood City: 71%
  • Hoover City: 64%
  • Trussville City: 59%

The top five systems sending students to two-year colleges includes:

  • Lamar County: 67%
  • Boaz City: 69%
  • Roanoke City: 60%
  • Marion County: 57%
  • Winfield City and Winston County: 55%

Change in the percentage of students enrolling in higher education from the graduating class of 2014 to the class of 2018 highly varied across systems and schools, ranging from 32 percent growth for Sheffield City to a reduction of 25 percentage points for Tarrant City. The systems with the highest growth include:

  • Sheffield City: 32% growth
  • Anniston City: 16% growth
  • Clay County: 14% growth
  • Conecuh County: 13% growth
  • Roanoke City: 11% growth

Is Your School Adding Value?

Socio-economic conditions are always influential in shaping college-going. A scatterplot is included which presents the college-going rate of Alabama high schools in the context of the poverty percentage at each school. The higher on the chart a school appears, the higher the percentage of its graduates enrolled in college. The farther to the right a school is positioned, the lower the percentage of students in poverty at that school. The poverty measure used is the percentage of students who directly qualified for a free lunch under the National School Lunch Program.

Note that those schools and systems above the line in the scatterplot are exceeding expectations for college-going given their level of poverty, and those below the line are below expectations. Those right on the line or close to it are performing as expected.

Explore the tabs to see a variety of data visualizations, including maps, charts, and tables at the state and local level. Below is an example of a map bringing these issues to light with a statewide geographical view.