Although the number of Buffalo Public Schools graduates attending college is the highest in the last seven years, the number of students enrolled in a four-year college is actually down from a high in 2007.
The growth of 9 percentage points in college-enrolled students from the Class of 2013 comes largely from those attending community college and other career and technical postgraduate programs, according to raw data from the National Student Clearinghouse.
Many of the graduates headed to Erie Community College, which worked hard to recruit students and developed new programs to retain them.
The new enrollment data released Wednesday shows that 2012 marked a particularly low period for the district, in which it had the fewest number of graduates and the fewest numbers attending college overall over in the last seven years.
Comparatively, 2013 showed a noteworthy rebound. Last year’s senior classes had both the highest number of graduates and the most students enrolling in postsecondary education during the seven-year period for which data has been provided.
Sixty-six percent of all students from last year’s graduating class enrolled in college or other postsecondary programs last fall. The Class of 2013 was the first class eligible for Say Yes tuition assistance.
Since 2007, the number of students enrolling in college has risen by 16 percent, but the number enrolling in four-year colleges fell by 4 percent. At the same time, the number of students enrolling in two-year programs grew by 53 percent.
In both cases, however, last year’s numbers are the highest they’ve been in the last five years for any type of college program – two- or four-year.
Diane McLaughlin, ECC’s project coordinator for Say Yes, said the college worked closely with Say Yes Buffalo to get more students enrolled. For students who did not receive an admissions testing waiver based on SAT scores, for instance, ECC made placement testing available at the high schools instead of requiring the students to come to the college.
A total of 352 Say Yes-eligible students from the Buffalo Public Schools and charter schools enrolled at ECC full time, she said. Of that number, 309 were still enrolled this spring semester, a 12 percent attrition rate that is in keeping with historic trends, McLaughlin said.
Of the original 352 students, more than half – 55 percent – were placed in one or more remedial, non-credit-bearing course. To retain these students, she said, the college created a Summer Success Academy that enrolled 34 students last year and was designed to fast-track students who required remedial classes so that they could take college-level courses sooner. The college hopes to enroll up to 50 in the program this summer.
ECC also established a “student retention alert system” in January – it had hoped to have it ready last fall – so that Say Yes students at risk of failing can be flagged and contacted by a school facilitator. The facilitator would connect the student with any support services needed, or at least assist the student in withdrawing from a class he or she might otherwise fail, McLaughlin said. “We want to reach them sooner rather than later,” she said.
David Rust, executive director for Say Yes Buffalo, said the district and Say Yes will not only track college enrollment data annually, but also track college retention data starting next year.
Wednesday, in addition to requesting and reviewing raw data on college enrollment provided by the National Student Clearinghouse, The Buffalo News also requested the raw district data for the Class of 2013, which is being used to support the district’s preliminary on-time graduation rate of 54 percent.
That data would include the number of students who graduated from high school in 2013, which may not exactly correspond with the number used by the National Student Clearinghouse. It also would include the total number of students who enrolled as ninth-graders four years earlier.
The district has contended that it could not disclose that information because it must be officially released by the state. A state Education Department spokesman said Wednesday that the state places no restrictions on the district’s release of this preliminary information, but continued efforts by The News to obtain these figures have been unsuccessful.