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.
By Jack Flagler
Jack is the editor of Community Impact Newspaper's Central Austin and Southwest Austin editions. He began his career as a sports reporter in Massachusetts and North Carolina before moving to Austin in 2018. He grew up in Maine and graduated from Boston University, but prefers tacos al pastor to lobster rolls. You can get in touch at jflagler@communityimpact.com


MOST RECENT

A photo of a "sold" sign
Central Austin August housing market numbers show high dollar-volume sales

While housing inventory remains low, home prices continue to rise.

Lions Municipal Golf Course clubhouse (Christopher Neely/Community Impact Newspaper)
State-created Save Muny Historic District to take over concession responsibilities at historic golf course

Negotiations over the fate of the Lions Municipal Golf Course remain ongoing between the city and The University of Texas board of regents.

Central Health administrative building in Austin
Central Health finalizes budget with increased tax rate, more health care services for low-income residents

Local health care district Central Health is budgeting a nearly $20 million increase in health care delivery services for Austin’s low-income residents.

"This season is a big, black box, and there are a lot of unknowns, as far as what the season's going to look like," said Dr. Bradley Berg, a BSW pediatrics doctor in Round Rock. (Courtesy Fotolia)
Baylor Scott & White Health to host 9 Austin-area drive-thru flu shot clinics

"This season is a big, black box, and there are a lot of unknowns, as far as what the season's going to look like," said Dr. Bradley Berg, a BSW pediatrics doctor in Round Rock.

A band performs at the Mohawk on Red River Street. (Christopher Neely/Community Impact Newspaper)
Six months into pandemic, Austin officials scrambling to save music venues, child care facilities and restaurants

City Council is set to begin making choices on which businesses to try to save on Oct. 1.

Dr. Sam Rolon is a physician for Baylor St. Luke's Medical Group Creekside Family Medicine in The Woodlands. (Courtesy St. Luke's Health)
Q&A: St. Luke's physician shares advice on flu season, vaccine and prevention

The influenza vaccine is recommended for nearly all patients of all ages ahead of this year's flu season, Dr. Sam Rolon said.

student in mask
TEA launches statewide COVID-19 dashboard for public schools

The Texas Education Agency, in collaboration with the Texas Department of State Health Services, has launched its latest COVID-19 dashboard for positive cases in Texas public schools.

Austin City Limits Music Festival will present a free virtual broadcast from Oct. 9-11. (Jack Flagler/Community Impact Newspaper)
Free virtual broadcast of ACL Music Festival to be held Oct. 9-11 and more Central Texas news

Read the latest business and community news from the Austin area.

Gov. Greg Abbott said Sept. 17 that data from Texas' 22 hospital regions will dictate when certain businesses can reopen at 75% capacity. (Screenshot of Sept. 17 press conference)
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott: Retail stores, restaurants, office buildings, gyms can reopen at 75% capacity as early as Sept. 21

Nursing home and long-term care facilities will also be allowed to reopen for visitation as early as Sept. 24.

Austin City Limits Music Festival will present a free virtual broadcast from Oct. 9-11. (Jack Flagler/Community Impact Newspaper)
Austin City Limits Music Festival to present virtual broadcast Oct. 9-11

The in-person form of the 2020 festival was canceled for the first time since it began in 2002.

Army Futures Command leadership tour renovations to the Austin Community College Rio Grande Campus with ACC Chancellor Richard Rhodes and trustee Gigi Edwards Bryant. (Courtesy Austin Community College)
Austin Community College, Army Futures Command to launch software incubator program this winter

The program will be located at the renovated ACC Rio Grande campus in downtown Austin.

Typhoon Texas has opened The Patio, a seasonal "eater-tainment" space in Pflugerville. (Courtesy The Patio)
The Patio opens in Pflugerville and more Central Texas news

Read the latest business and community news from Central Texas.