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Two-thirds of graduating Buffalo Public Schools seniors enrolled in college last fall – the highest percentage in at least seven years.

The Class of 2013 showed an increase of 9 percentage points in college enrollment over the previous year, with 66 percent of city students enrolling in either a two- or four-year college or a post-secondary career program.

Last year’s graduating class was the first class to be eligible for tuition assistance from Say Yes Buffalo. Seniors also received hands-on assistance filling out college financial aid forms through support offered by the University at Buffalo.

“We’re just very pleased to be able to partner with Say Yes to Education and to know that our efforts are paying off,” said Superintendent Pamela Brown on Tuesday afternoon.

Brown will officially share the college enrollment figures at the Say Yes Buffalo Community Leadership Council this morning.

This positive news comes as a welcome relief for district leaders, who have been otherwise swamped with image problems, political controversy and criticism in recent weeks. The data that served as the basis for this ray of sunshine came from National Student Clearinghouse, an educational research organization that analyzes enrollment data from more than 3,500 colleges and universities.

In the six years prior to 2013, college enrollment numbers fluctuated between 55 percent and 61 percent. It is not yet clear when, if ever, the district has seen such a high percentage of its students entering college. The National Student Clearinghouse provided college enrollment numbers going back to 2007, but the older data has since been requested.

“The results are very, very encouraging,” Brown said, “and I think it’s consistent with the increase we saw in our graduation rates.”

The district’s preliminary on-time graduation rate for 2013 was 54 percent, an increase over the 47 percent graduation rate in 2012.

While the percentage of students enrolling in four-year colleges grew modestly, and the percentage of students enrolling in private colleges remained flat from 2012 to 2013, the district saw a much more noticeable increase in the percentage of students attending two-year colleges. That percentage grew from 25 percent in 2012 to 31 percent last year.

The percentage of students attending public colleges also grew from 37 percent to 46 percent, accounting for virtually all of the increase in college enrollment by Buffalo students, despite Say Yes’s tuition scholarship agreements with many private universities.

Brown credited much of the increase in college enrollment to the district’s emphasis on “developing a college-going culture among all our students” and providing strong academic and intervention programs.

“We’re going onward and upward,” the superintendent said. “We hope to continue to enhance the strategies we have put in place, to continue to work closely with Say Yes to Education and other partners in the community.”

David Rust, executive director of Say Yes Buffalo, gave credit to all the community stakeholders, from guidance counselors to college partners, for collaborating on the mission to move more Buffalo students into post-secondary education.

Starting next year, he said, he expects the Buffalo Public Schools college enrollment information to be released annually.

Both Rust and Brown said that the 66 percent college enrollment figure will be used as the basis for future goal-setting.

“The ultimate goal of the Say Yes endeavor is to increase the number of post-secondary graduates,” Rust said. “In order to do that, we have to track all along the way. This is a long-term effort.”

For more on this story, visit the School Zone blog at www.buffalonews.com/schoolzone email: stan@buffnews.com