Fewer District 51 grads chose college than peers in ‘09
The rate of District 51 students who graduated high school in 2009 and enrolled in a college or university the following year is below that of their counterparts statewide.
Nearly 57 percent of local high school graduates pursued higher education shortly after graduation three years ago, 10 percentage points less the state average, according to a report submitted last month to the Colorado Commission on Higher Education.
The 620 local members of the Class of 2009 who chose not to attend a two-year or four-year college in 2009-10 may have attended technical school, enlisted in the military, or pursued jobs or internships, District 51 Executive Director of High Schools Bill Larsen said. Larsen said post-high school education and apprenticeships are key in today’s economy, but a traditional college setting is not the best fit for all students and their career goals.
“Some parents really value going to college but they have to know their investment will have dividends,” Larsen said.
Although college isn’t for all, Larsen said the district encourages higher education for most students and hopes to increase the number of students who choose to pursue a higher degree.
Palisade, Central and R-5 high schools used a state Counselor Core Grant this year to hire four counselors who specifically work on encouraging students to attend college. Palisade High counselor Jon Burke said his school encourages pride in higher education by offering free T-shirts to students who bring their college acceptance letters to school.
“People are making the realization a high school diploma is worth a cup of coffee and that’s it,” Burke said. “It’s more about the younger students seeing those T-shirts and saying, ‘Palisade High School students go to college and that’s how it is.’ “
Some high school students and their families worry about paying for college, living away from home, or being the first in their family to attend college. Burke said counselors try to assuage those fears by hosting financial aid nights, taking students on trips to universities and community colleges around the state and encouraging them to apply for scholarships and take advantage of days or weeks when colleges or universities waive their application fees.
Once students make it to college, Colorado Mesa University Vice President of Academic Affairs Steve Werman said the university tries to hold onto them through a tracking system that alerts advisers when a student’s grades and attendance fall and an orientation class a week before school starts that teaches newcomers good study habits, time management and how to find student services. Werman said 90 percent of freshmen who participate in the course continue taking classes at CMU in the spring of their freshman year, compared to about 80 percent for students who do not take the course.