Forty-five percent of Utah’s high school graduating class of 2017 enrolled in college the following year

SALT LAKE CITY – Forty-five percent of Utah high school graduates enroll in college the year after high school graduation, according to the recently-released High School Feedback Reports from the Utah System of Higher Education (USHE). Utah continues to be near the lowest in the nation for the percent of high school graduates going directly to college.

“A major factor of the relatively low percentage of high school graduates attending college the following year is explained by the high percentage completing religious service; however, many other students still aren’t finding their way to college that first year,” said Dave Buhler, Commissioner of Higher Education. “The Board of Regents’ top priority, a statewide college access advising program, is a proven model and will lead to more students choosing to go to college, especially those from underserved populations.”

One of the key initiatives of the Utah Board of Regents is ensuring all Utahns have access to a college education in order to increase the educational attainment of the state. The Board advanced a proposal to create a statewide college access advising program, where each high school in Utah would have a college access advisor. As an initial expansion, the Office of the Commissioner of Higher Education has reprioritized $1 million of existing dollars to place college access advisors in thirty-three Utah high schools across the state, starting Fall 2019.

The near-peer college access advisor will help students register for and complete college entrance exams, submit college applications, apply for scholarships and financial aid, and connect them to first-year experience programs to ensure a smooth transition from high school to college.

High schools with a college access advisor are anticipated to see the college enrollment rates of their graduates increase 5 to 9 percent.

Each year, USHE releases High School Feedback Reports, which detail the performance of high school graduates during their first year of college. Key findings from the report on the high school graduating class of 2017 include:

  • 45.5 percent of Utah high school graduates enrolled in college the year after high school graduation.
  • More than 80 percent of students who enrolled in college for Fall 2017 returned for the spring semester.
  • Overall, the percentage of high school graduates eligible for Pell grants increased 2 percent. Yet only 77 percent of low-income students received a Pell grant. This could be due to students not completing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), as Utah continues to have the lowest FAFSA completion rates in the country. One of the key responsibilities of the in-school college access advisor is to connect students to financial aid opportunities, including FAFSA completion and scholarships.
  • The state average of students needing to take remedial math or English courses has gone down 5 percent.
  • Fewer low-income students have to take remedial English courses (3% decrease over last year), but they are still taking them at more than double the rate of the state average (9% vs 4%).

The full state report utilizes high school graduate data from the Utah State Board of Education and college enrollment information from both the National Student Clearinghouse and USHE institutions—Utah’s eight public colleges and universities. It is given as feedback to state leadership, district superintendents, and individual high schools. Individual reports are also available for the majority of Utah high schools here.