SUU college students

Analyzing Utah’s college participation and completion patterns

In 2016, the Board of Regents adopted a 10-year strategic plan, Utah: A State of Opportunity, which includes two specific goals related to students’ participation and completion of higher education:

  1. 75% of Utah’s high school graduates would enroll in college within five years of high school graduation by the year 2025
  2. Degree productivity at institutions within the Utah System of Higher Education would increase to 28 awards (i.e., certificates or degrees) per 100 full-time equivalent students by the year 2025.

A newly published report by the Office of the Commissioner explores the current patterns of higher education participation and completion in Utah to help provide baseline context to the goals of the Board of Regents.


View the full report.

Highlights from the report:

  • 80% of high school graduates that enrolled in college between 2007-2012 enrolled at a USHE institution.
  • 52% of Utah high school seniors enrolled in college during the first year after their high school graduation. However, after ten years, 71% had enrolled.
  • Immediately after high school graduation, 60% of females enroll in college, while 44% of males enroll. After 10 years, men and women enroll at equal rates (71%).
  • Gaps in college enrollment by ethnicity and income persist over all 10 years (enrollment of low income high school students is consistently 18% lower than non-low income students over 10 years).
  • Students with limited English proficiency in high school are the least likely to attend college, 31% after 10 years following high school graduation.
  • 52% of high school graduates that enrolled in college complete a degree or certificate within eight years.
  • 58% of female students graduated from a USHE institution within eight years of first enrollment, while only 47% of male students graduated in that same amount of time.

The report highlights several USHE Initiatives aimed at increasing the overall college participation and completion rates of Utah high school graduates, including underserved populations where greater barriers to college access and success exist:

High School Feedback Reports:

For the past two years, the Office of the Commissioner of Higher Education has been providing High School Feedback Reports to principals and school district superintendents to allow them to track their students’ college participation rates following high school graduation. The Feedback Reports also track placement into remedial or college-level math and English courses for students who attend institutions within the Utah System of Higher Education.

Utah College Application Week:

The Office of the Commissioner of Higher Education also works closely with high schools across the state to organize Utah College Application Week events throughout the month of November, which Governor Herbert has declared Utah College Application Month.  These events provide high school seniors with an opportunity to apply to college during the school day with support from adult volunteers. In November of 2016, 117 high schools—out of the 187 high schools in Utah— organized a College Application Week.

Counselor Resources:

The Utah System of Higher Education also provides several resources to counselors via its outreach initiative, StepUp to Higher Education, including an annual conference attended by over 800 counselors and administrators, published resources like the annual College Guide for counselors to use in their career and college readiness sessions with students, curriculum support for counselor training programs, and the new Career and College Readiness professional certificates.

Report source: College Participation and Completion of Utah High School Graduates, Cohorts 2007-2012. David Ma, January 2017.