Texas educators search for ways to increase direct college enrollment

Breakthrough Central Texas students from Austin ISD and Manor ISD celebrated their graduations in May.

Breakthrough Central Texas students from Austin ISD and Manor ISD celebrated their graduations in May.

On the morning Saturday, May 5, a group of high school seniors from Austin ISD arrived at St. Edward’s University. The students hopped out of a limousine and walked into the college for a ceremony to commemorate their upcoming high school graduation. Each one of them is aiming to become the first person in their family to enroll in college.

The ceremony was held by a program called Breakthrough Central Texas, a nonprofit organization that provides resources starting in sixth grade for children to become first-generation college students.

Breakthrough celebrated 92 students from Austin ISD and Manor ISD who will become first-generation college students, but CEO Michael Griffith says for many students both here in Central Texas and around the state, college remains a significant barrier.

The Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board tracks data for students statewide from 8th grade through higher education. According to the most recent 8th grade cohort data, 53 percent of students in the 16-county Central Texas region enrolled in two-year or four-year higher education institutions. For economically disadvantaged students, that number drops to 35 percent.

“We’re really stuck in a hard place and needing some shifts in the way we approach this to achieve success,” Griffith said.

The THECB has recognized direct-to-college enrollment as an issue that needs to be addressed statewide. The board’s 60x30 strategic plan aims to have at least 60 percent of Texans age 25-34 to have a certificate or degree by 2030. In order to achieve the 60x30 goals, 65 percent of high school seniors would have to enroll directly in college in 2030.

In the fall of 2016, 52 percent of high school graduates enrolled directly into college, a decrease from 53 percent the previous year.

“We don’t know if that’s a trend or simply an anomaly but it’s certainly an issue of concern,” said Commissioner of Higher Education Raymund Paredes at an April 26 THECB meeting.

Austin ISD assistant superintendent Craig Shapiro said the direct-to-college enrollment rates locally have mirrored the state trends and remained flat. In the fall of 2017, 57.4 percent of AISD graduates enrolled directly in college in the fall of 2017.

Shapiro said the school district runs a number of programs to assist students in college preparation starting even before high school. However, both Shapiro and Griffith noted that in an economically disadvantaged community, one small unexpected life change can shift an already precarious balance and make college less of a priority.

“There’s so many family situations (that factor in the) decision making. It’s not an automatic, for good reason in some cases. Even with the best of intentions, things can change financially as people lose jobs or move or have family situations,” Shapiro said.


MOST RECENT

The 6.5-mile project will be an important connection for the pedestrian, bicycle and transit networks, according to city officials. (Courtesy Austin Public Works)
City of Austin begins design of urban trail on abandoned rail corridor

The city, along with the Capital Area Metropolitan Planning Organization, won a state award for a Bergstrom Spur Trail study.

Consuelo Mendez Middle School has consistently received poor ratings from the Texas Education Agency. (Community Impact Newspaper)
CI TEXAS ROUNDUP: State could take over AISD school board if poorly-rated campus does not improve; new furniture store to open in McKinney and more top news

Take a look at the top five trending stories across Community Impact Newspaper’s coverage areas in Texas as of Dec. 3.

Derrick Chubbs is leaving Austin for a food bank in Florida. (Courtsey Central Texas Food Bank)
Central Texas Food Bank CEO Derrick Chubbs steps down

Derrick Chubbs is leaving Austin for a food bank in Florida.

Consuelo Mendez Middle School has consistently received poor ratings from the Texas Education Agency. (Community Impact Newspaper)
State could take over AISD school board if poorly rated campus does not improve next year

If the school does receive an improved rating, the state's commissioner of education could replace every member of Austin ISD's school board.

Austin ISD trustee Noelita Lugo argues for breaking down student achievement measures by race in the district's 2021-2026 scorecard, rather than examining only economically disadvantaged students without racial groups. (Maggie Quinlan/Community Impact Newspaper)
Austin ISD considers how to measure equity gaps in academic achievement

Austin ISD trustees are continuing to work out details of the 2021-2026 district scorecard, which measures progress on equity goals.

Austin City Council made changes to arts and library funding among other decisions Dec. 2. (Maggie Quinlan/Community Impact Newspaper)
Austin City Hall notebook: Arts community, homeless health care program get funding, plus other actions

City Council approved more than 50 items Dec. 2, changing the Office of Civil Rights, doling out funding and more.

Council Member Greg Casar speaks at a press conference outside City Hall ahead of a vote to approve an ordinance granting the Austin Office of Civil Rights enforcement power. (Maggie Quinlan/Community Impact Newspaper)
Austin Office of Civil Rights granted new powers

An ordinance passed by Austin City Council on Dec. 2 creates additional civil and criminal penalties for discrimination.

The school board will consider whether to call a special election to fill the vacancy or make an appointment. (Zara Flores/Community Impact Newspaper)
CI TEXAS ROUNDUP: Hays CISD to hold special meeting on resignation of board member; Montgomery approves plan for downtown and more top news

Take a look at the top five trending stories across Community Impact Newspaper’s coverage areas in Texas as of Dec. 2.

The existing gallery location on South Lamar Boulevard will close on Dec. 20. (Courtesy Ao5 Gallery)
Ao5 Gallery relocating from South Austin to The Arboretum this winter

With the relocation to Northwest Austin, Ao5 Gallery will expand its custom framing services, have better parking, be able to display more art and be able to accommodate more guests for live events, according to officials with the gallery.

Rendering of Tesla's Cybertruck
Tesla officially names Texas gigafactory as its new headquarters

A U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission filing shows the Travis County manufacturing plant as Tesla's new home base.

The state and the city of Austin had already exhausted rental assistance funding from the federal program. (Benton Graham/Community Impact Newspaper)
Travis County hits pause on rental assistance applications as federal dollars dry up

With surging demand and the scheduled eviction moratorium expiring in December, Travis County is facing a possible shortfall in Emergency Rental Assistance Program funding.