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The Indiana Daily Student

College-going rate for Indiana high school students continues to flatline, new data shows

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This story was written by Casey Smith. It was originally published by the Indiana Capital Chronicle here: https://indianacapitalchronicl...

The rate of Indiana high school seniors who go directly on to college remains stagnant, according to the latest data released by state officials.

New numbers for the Class of 2022 announced Thursday by the Indiana Commission of Higher Education (CHE) indicated — for the third year in a row — that just 53% of Hoosier graduates furthered their education with certificate training, a two-year program or enrollment at a four-year college. 

It’s a 6% drop from the class of 2019, and 12% lower than in 2015.

Still, because the data further shows that the total number of 2022 high school graduates increased by 3%, that translates to fewer students enrolled in postsecondary education directly after high school.

“Even though the college-going rate held steady at 53%, we actually lost a number of first-time students enrolling from our headcount perspective,” said Brooke Kile, associate commissioner for business intelligence.

CHE staff presented preliminary data during the commission’s bi-monthly meeting on Thursday. Official numbers for 2022 are expected to be released next week.

The rate — called “dismal” by numerous state lawmakers and education officials — continues the state’s lowest college-going trend in recent history. The decline began several years prior, however. 

More students going out of state

CHE defines the college-going rate as the percentage of students who enroll in a postsecondary institution within the year following high school graduation.

Per the 2022 data, 47% of students who completed Career and Technical Education (CTE) training while in high school went on to pursue additional postsecondary coursework. 

But among those CTE students, Kile noted that Indiana continues to have access gaps among different demographic groups. 

About 70% of Asian students and 48% of White students who took CTE classes went on to college, according to the commission’s numbers. Forty-four percent of Black students and 41% of Hispanic and Latino students continued education after graduation. 

Kile said, too, that male students are “increasingly choosing” not to participate in postsecondary education.

Indiana’s 21st Century Scholars students are making the jump, though, and have “a very strong college-going rate,” Kile continued. The scholarship fund covers full tuition and fees at Indiana colleges and universities for low-income students, who enroll in the 8th grade.

Eighty-one percent of scholars in the 2022 cohort advanced to postsecondary education, according the the new data. That’s compared to 59% of non-scholar students who continued their studies.

CHE officials also identified a new trend with the Class of 2022 — of the students who are going to college, more are enrolling in out-of-state schools.

Around 27% of graduating seniors enrolled in one of Indiana’s public four-year institutions, followed by 10% who attend a public two-year school and 8% who enrolled at a private college or university.

Another 8% went to a school outside of Indiana, according to the data.

“This is the highest out-of-state percentage that we’ve seen in the last several years,” Kile explained. She said Indiana’s college-going rates only held steady the out-of-state enrollment went up.

“One year is not a trend, so we are not necessarily sounding the alarm,” she continued. “But we are definitely looking at what sort of early indicator data we can get from the 2023 and 2024 cohorts, looking at attendance patterns, to see if we need to do any sort of special initiatives to encourage students to stay in Indiana.”

CHE initiatives continue

Also previewed Thursday was a data update on the Class of 2021.

CHE officials said 51% of the 2021 cohort that enrolled in a postsecondary program within a year after high school graduation met all three early college success benchmarks: ​​they did not need remediation, they completed all courses they attempted during their first year of enrollment, and they persisted to their second year of schooling.

According to the latest numbers, 77% of the 2021 cohort that enrolled in a postsecondary program persisted to the second year, which Kile said is the highest persistence rate in more than a decade.

Still, Kile and other commission officials emphasized ongoing efforts to boost postsecondary enrollment.

Current initiatives include:

  • Additional support from the Frank O’Bannon grant — a 35% increase to awards took effect beginning with the 2023 cohort.
  • “Pre-admissions letters,” a program first started by CHE last year, which indicated to Hoosier students at least three Indiana colleges and universities to which they qualified to attend.
  • Automatic enrollment for eligible 21st Century Scholars — which doubled the number of scholars in the 2027 graduating class from 20,000 to over 40,000.
  • Adding incentives for Indiana campuses to prioritize low-income youth and adult enrollment.

Kile also noted CHE’s continued expansion of the Indiana College Core offerings, given that College Core completion “is the best indicator for college going.”

The curriculum consists of a 30-credit-hour block of general education courses that transfer between all of Indiana’s public institutions and some private colleges.

Adding to the effort, a new law signed by the governor in March will require College Core courses to be more accessible to high schoolers across the state, and compels Hoosier colleges and universities — minus Ivy Tech Community College and Vincennes University — to offer three-year degree programs by July 2025.

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