Just 2 in 5 Connecticut high school grads finish college
HARTFORD -- As the state strives to improve student performance, high school graduation rates and eventual success in college, a new report suggests just how far public schools have to go.
For the 35,671 high school students who graduated from Connecticut public high schools in 2004, just two in five had earned a degree or certificate from college six years out. Another one-third started college during this time, but did not finish. One-quarter skipped post-secondary education altogether.
Locally, the percentage of students successfully completing a college program six years out of high school ranged from 6 percent at Henry Abbott Technical High School in Danbury to 73 percent at Ridgefield High School.
Suburban high school graduates find more success at college than urban students, the report shows.
The data comes from the National Student Clearinghouse, a central repository of enrollment and graduation data, and was requested by the state's Board of Regents for Higher Education, the state Department of Education and P-20 Council, a collaboration between the state's early childhood, K-12, higher education and workforce training sectors.
The council, which held a series of college readiness workshops across the state this fall, is releasing the data to give policymakers and educators a better idea of what high school graduates in the state do with their diplomas. The report provides degree completion rates by high schools in the state, information which has previously not been available in Connecticut.
Michael Meotti, vice president of the state's Board of Regents, said the report signals a need to identify ways to help students prepare to enter the workforce.
"We need to ensure that we're preparing our students for success from the very moment they set foot in our schools," Meotti said in a prepared statement. "That means identifying ways in which we can help them learn and be better able to adapt to the 21st century workforce."
The report calls for a focus on students who enter college but fail to graduate within six years.
Of the 41 percent of the class of 2004 who completed at least one degree or certificate program, half -- representing 20 percent of the class -- went to Connecticut colleges and universities and half attended colleges or universities out of state.
In Connecticut, according to the U.S. Census, 46 percent of 25- to 34-year-olds have an associate degree or higher. That puts the state seventh in the nation. The state's level of education attainment is slipping.
Braden Hosch, director of policy and research for the Board of Regents, said the results are about what was expected.
The data also shows the college-going rate between 2004 and 2009 has increased. According to the state Department of Education, 77.8 percent of the class of 2004 indicated they planned to attend college. In actuality, 57.4 attended college, according to clearinghouse statistics that officials say are accurate within 5 percent.
In 2009, 80.5 percent said they were college-bound. The clearinghouse reports 66.9 percent enrolled the following fall.
"What we are trying to focus attention on is: What matters for Connecticut's economic competitiveness is not simply that students go to college, but when they go, they finish," Hosch said. "We know that in the economy we have today, having some sort of credential after high school makes you much more competitive in the job market."
The report doesn't get into the reasons why students don't finish. While some point to the cost of college as for why some students start but don't finish college, many say not enough students enter college prepared to do the work or have the motivation to stick with it.
State Education Commissioner Stefan Pryor said there is a need for better preparation. The higher education report comes out the same day the Department of Education released a report that shows graduation rates from public high schools in 2010 showed only a slight improvement. Nearly one in five students still fail to graduate within four years. For minority students, one in three fail to graduate with the class they entered with as freshmen.
Ten districts in the state, including Monroe, had greater than a 95 percent graduation rate in 2010. Six districts, including Bridgeport, had rates lower than 65 percent.
Contact Linda Lambeck at 203-330-6218 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her at twitter.com/lclambeck.