College enrollment lags

Published 9:48 pm Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Students who graduate from Suffolk Public Schools lag behind the state averages in college enrollment and completing college credits once enrolled, according to new reports by the Virginia Department of Education.

The city falls below the state average for the rate of 2011 graduates who enrolled in college no more than 16 months after leaving high school.

The city also is behind the state average for achievement in the first two years of college.

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Individually, none of the city’s schools beats the state average, but Nansemond River came close in one of the areas.

Superintendent Deran Whitney said the school system is working to increase student enrollment and achievement in higher education.

“While there is no one specific plan in place, each school has put forth efforts toward informing students about continuing education and career readiness after graduation,” he said. “This has been an area discussed and focused on in years past, as well.”

The results show that as a whole, Suffolk is eight percentage points behind the state average of the rate of 2011 graduates earning either a standard or advanced diploma who enrolled in college within 16 months of leaving high school.

The city also is nine percentage points behind the state average for the rate of students from the class of 2008 who earned a standard or advanced diploma, enrolled in a Virginia public college or university within 16 months and earned at least one year of college credit within two years of enrollment.

However, there is an encouraging trend in the numbers. Black students from Suffolk who enrolled in college had a higher rate of earning credit than white students from Suffolk, which closes a post-secondary achievement gap.

Patricia I. Wright, state superintendent of public instruction, said the data contained in the reports provides a valuable tool to help school divisions prepare students for what comes after high school.

“For the first time, we are able to link the high school records of individual students to higher education student data, while protecting privacy and keeping personal information secure,” she said. “These reports present a clearer picture of the success of schools, school divisions and the commonwealth in preparing young Virginians for postsecondary education and training.”

Overall, 54 percent of the city’s class of 2011 enrolled in any institution of higher education within 16 months of earning their diploma. The state average was 62 percent.

For four-year public institutions, Suffolk’s number dropped to 23 percent. Two-year public institutions accounted for 25 percent of the total students who went on to post-secondary institutions, and four-year private schools accounted for 6percent.

Whitney said the school system has been considering a system-wide college fair or similar program that would invite middle and high school students to a series of workshops about getting ready for college.

“We also hope to include in our student survey this year questions to help us determine why students are not choosing to continue education,” he said.

Nansemond River’s average for college enrollment was 61 percent, meaning it came the closest of all the schools — just one point shy — to beating the state average.

In the area of college achievement, 58 percent of Suffolk’s class of 2008 earned one year of college credit in two years of college enrollment. The state average was 67 percent.