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Alabama college enrollment for recent graduates at five-year low

Despite 92 percent of students graduating — a record number for Alabama — only 58 percent entered into higher learning.

(STOCK PHOTO)

The percentage of Alabama high school students attending colleges and universities after graduation has dropped to the lowest percentage in five years, according to new data by the Alabama Commission on Higher Education.

The data, taken from 50,840 high school graduates from the class of 2019, shows despite 92 percent of students graduating — a record number for Alabama — only 58 percent entered into higher learning places. A total of 21,456 graduates — some 42 percent — decided against enrolling in colleges and universities. Ninety percent of enrollees went to Alabama colleges and universities, the overwhelming majority to public colleges and universities.

In a release analyzing ACHE’s data, the Public Affairs Research Council of Alabama suggested that the downward trend resulted from historically low unemployment rates and a strong economy in 2019.

“Enrollment losses were concentrated in the two-year college population,” the analysis states. “Enrollment in two-year colleges tends to fall when jobs are plentiful, and high school graduates have an immediate opportunity to go into the workforce. Meanwhile, in the fall of 2019, the number of Alabama high school graduates going on to four-year college increased slightly.”

Students in magnet and suburban high schools ranked higher in four-year college enrollment, while some rural and county systems ranked higher in local community college enrollment. Rural counties without large population centers and urban high schools in impoverished neighborhoods tended lower in college-going rates.

The council showcased a separate survey conducted by ACHE gathering overall fall enrollment for all Alabama public colleges in 2020, showing an even steeper 6 percent decline in enrollment in two-year colleges due, PARCA suggests, to the schools and new graduates attempting to navigate the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Alabama, as a state, and communities within Alabama would benefit from higher levels of educational attainment,” the analysis states. “Higher levels of education are associated with higher levels of income, better health, and longer life. States with higher levels of educational attainment have higher per capita income.”

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John H. Glenn
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John is a student contributor studying communications and French at the University of Alabama at Birmingham. You can contact him at [email protected] or via Twitter.

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