New College-Going Rates by High School

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What percentage of the graduates from your local high school go on to college?

Where do they go? To four-year universities or two-year colleges? In-state or out-of-state? Private or public?

Answers to those questions can be found in new data provided by the Alabama Commission on Higher Education. The data, drawn by ACHE from the National Student Clearinghouse, provides college-going data both for the state as a whole and for all Alabama public high schools. It’s just the second year this comprehensive set of data has been available. Previously, ACHE’s college-going statistics could only report on high school graduates entering public colleges and universities in Alabama. The more comprehensive data captures enrolling in public and private colleges throughout the country.

Alabama’s high school graduation rate reached 89 percent in 2015, and thanks in part to that, the state’s public high schools produced more graduates who entered higher education at both two-year colleges and four-year schools. The number of students who graduated but did not enroll in college the year after graduation also increased.

Of the students in the graduating class of 2015, 64 percent enrolled in higher education: 32 percent at a two-year college, 32 percent at a 4-year institution. Meanwhile, 36 percent did not enroll in that first year after graduation.

Of those that graduates who went on to college, 91 percent went to college in the state of Alabama and 9 percent enrolled in out-of-state institutions; 7 percent of graduates enrolled in private colleges and 93 percent went to public colleges and university. Using the selection boxes below you can look at the statistics for any high school in the state.

When making comparisons of college-going rates, it’s important to keep the socio-economic composition of the various schools and systems in mind. Students from families with higher incomes and whose parents went to college are more likely to go on to higher education. Those students tend to have great exposure and access to higher education and also have greater ability to afford college. The National Student Clearinghouse annually publishes a report on college-going rates and persistence through college. The report includes comparisons of the results from schools with varying demographic compositions. The Student Clearinghouse study looks at enrollment in the fall after graduation, while the ACHE data looks at enrollment at any time in the first year after graduation from high school. Regardless, the Student Clearinghouse data shows clear differences in the college-going rates between high-poverty and low-poverty school systems. The chart below represents college enrollment rates in the first fall after high school graduation for the U.S. national class of 2014, from public non-charter Schools, by poverty level. Further discussion can be found in the Clearinghouse report: High School Benchmarks 2015: National College Progression Rates.

With those distinctions in mind, the comparative data from Alabama shows striking differences in college-going rates and the destination of students after graduation.

Systems with low poverty rates, like Mountain Brook and Vestavia Hills, send most of their graduates on to four-year colleges and universities. Other systems with somewhat higher poverty percentages still send a large percentage of graduates off to college. However, more of those graduates start at a community college.

When comparing individual high schools, it is also important to keep in mind that some high schools, like Loveless Academic Magnet Program (LAMP) in Montgomery or Ramsay High School in the Birmingham City System, are academic magnets. Those magnet schools also tend to send a higher percentage of students on to higher education. In fact, the top four Alabama high schools in terms of college-going rate are magnets: three Montgomery magnets — LAMP at 98 percent, Booker T. Washington at 94 percent, and Brewbaker Technology Magnet at 93 percent — plus Birmingham’s Ramsay at 93 percent.

With two years of data from ACHE, it is now possible to note year-over-year changes in the percentage of students going on to higher education from various schools. When looking at those year-to-year changes, it is important to keep in mind that smaller high schools will see bigger fluctuations because a few more students going on to college can make a bigger change in the percentage of graduates going on to college. Comparing the graduating classes of 2014 and 2015, the biggest change in college-going rates occurred at Sunshine High School in Hale County. Because Hale County has now closed Sunshine, its 2015 graduating class will be its last. But that class showed a remarkable jump in college-going. In 2014, Sunshine produced 14 graduates, and half of them went on to higher education. In 2015, the school produced 23 graduates and 85 percent of those graduates enrolled in higher education the year after graduation. According to Hale County Superintendent Osie Pickens, the Hale County High School counseling staff made an extra effort to place that last class of graduating students from Sunshine resulting in the jump in college-going rate.

The tool below presents five different views of the data. The first tab contains a graph that presents each high school’s college-going rate along with the percentage of its students from households in poverty. The second tab is a chart that presents college-going at the system level, including the percentages of graduates going to four-year colleges, two-year schools, and the percentage that didn’t enroll. The third tab presents the same information at the school level. The fourth tab presents system-level statistics for the numbers of graduates, the percentage of graduates going on to higher education, and the percentage point change in college-going for that system between 2014 and 2015. The fifth tab presents the same statistics at the school level.