More D51 graduates choose Colorado colleges

School District 51’s graduating class of 2011 bucked a statewide trend by sending more students than the class of 2010 to Colorado colleges and universities, according to a recently released Colorado Department of Higher Education report.

The department’s annual high school graduate matriculation report lists how many graduates in each of Colorado’s 178 school districts enrolled in Colorado colleges and universities the fall after they graduated.

The number of high school graduates in Colorado increased by 1.1 percent year-over-year in spring 2011, but 45.2 percent of those graduates enrolled at an in-state institution that fall, down from 46.3 percent in-state enrollment for the class of 2010.

Every District 51 high school, meanwhile, recorded an increase in the number and percentage of graduates last year who enrolled in Colorado postsecondary schools in fall 2011.

In 2010, 42.1 percent of District 51 graduates went to in-state schools. In 2011, that percentage jumped to 47.4 percent as 105 more District 51 graduates made their way to Colorado schools post-high school.

The report does not track how many students chose to go to college out-of-state, but Fruita Monument High School counselor Bob Corneille said interest in attending college anywhere has increased among students, at least at his school.

Eight years ago, 55 to 56 percent of Fruita Monument students self-reported an interest in attending college. That figure has grown to more than 70 percent in recent years, he said.

Misty Sellden, a counselor at Central High School, said some students who would not have considered college before are gaining confidence that they can succeed in postsecondary education because they have tried out college-level classes.

Enrollment in Advanced Placement courses and the International Baccalaureate program are up and offerings have expanded for concurrent enrollment for high school students at Colorado Mesa University and Western Colorado Community College, as well as college-level classes offered at local high schools as part of the High School Scholars program.

“It shows students what it’s really like,” Sellden said. “To go on a college campus gives them a sense there’s absolutely something else after high school and doing well in high school does reap rewards.”

Corneille said college fairs, financial aid information nights, college preparation workshops and school guidance with the college application process also have encouraged students to enroll in college after graduation.

The affordability of living at home and/or paying in-state tuition has encouraged students to stay within Colorado’s borders as the economy has declined, he added.

“We still have the same number of kids looking out-of-state ... then the financial reality sets in and they have to go to Plan B or Plan C, which usually involves staying close to home,” Corneille said.

Most colleges, community colleges and universities across Colorado experienced a decrease in in-state enrollment from recent Colorado high school graduates last fall. The exceptions were Colorado Mesa and the University of Colorado at Boulder and Colorado Springs, which experienced increases in in-state freshman enrollment, and the University of Northern Colorado, Greeley, which kept resident enrollment from recent high school graduates flat year-over-year.

Colorado Mesa got some of its boost from District 51 students.

But even if all 684 District 51 graduates of the class of 2011 who enrolled in Colorado schools that fall went to Colorado Mesa, it would account for less than half of new Colorado high school graduates who started at CMU in fall 2011.

The university increased its freshman in-state enrollment by 16.8 percent year-over-year in 2011, outpacing overall in-state enrollment growth of 10 percent and total enrollment growth of 10.4 percent in 2011 compared to 2010.


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