By Linda Kor
The results of a new study unveiled by the Arizona Board of Regents shows some discouraging statistics regarding post-secondary education for Arizona high school graduates from the Class of 2006. The study documented graduates from each school throughout the state to determine how many of them went on to complete a post-secondary education, whether that education was obtained in or out of the state.
According to the study, more than half of the 53,392 students who graduated went on to college, but not all of them earned a degree. The numbers show that 2,933, or just over five percent of the students, graduated from a two-year institution and 9,957, or nearly 19 percent, graduated from a four-year institution. There were 17,239, or just over 32 percent, who went to college but did not graduate, leaving 23,199, or just over 43 percent of those who graduated who did not pursue a post-secondary education. It was also noted that 62 percent of the college degrees earned by the high school Class of 2006 went to students from just 40 of the state’s 460 high schools.
In the central Navajo County region, the study showed that 170 students graduated from Holbrook High School in 2006, with 23, or 13.5 percent, of those then graduating from a two-year institution and 14, or just 8.2 percent, from a four-year institution. Winslow High School had 174 graduates, with 22, or 12.6 percent, graduating from a two-year institution and 11, or 6.3 percent, from a four-year institution. Joseph City had 34 graduates, with six, or 17.6 percent, graduating from a two-year institution and two, or 5.9 percent, from a four-year institution. Snowflake had 149 graduates, with 25, or 16.8 percent, graduating from a two-year institution and 17, or 11.4 percent, from a four-year institution.
Those numbers put the schools mentioned just slightly higher than half of the high schools in the state, which showed five percent or fewer of their 2006 graduates earned four-year degrees.
Winslow School Superintendent Doug Watson found the study troublesome in that it was linked to high schools, indicating that they are somehow responsible for whether students were able to graduate from college.
“What I saw coming out of that study was a very strong socio-economic link. No matter how bright the student, the environment they come from has an effect on how successful they are after high school. If their parents did not graduate from college and they have lived in poverty, those are incredible things to overcome,” stated Watson.
He explained that college is an experience totally different and new than anything the students have done before and can present unexpected challenges. “In high school they may have done very well socially and then when they go off to college, no one even knows who they are. Then to be able to pay for that education is very stressful, said Watson.
“I would say that most of the people living along the I-40 corridor live under a very high poverty rate. The system and language that is involved in understanding the college process is very challenging, and a child that comes from poverty would have a difficult time understanding it and being able to work within that system,” stated Watson.
Other challenges facing students pursuing a post-secondary education include the ability to adjust to the social change it presents. “When students go on to college they are there with kids who have means and support. Even if money were to be provided, students who are technically adults may not be able to make adult decisions and in trying to keep up with other students, find their money has run out before they have graduated,” Watson explained.
Faced with such obstacles, Watson believes students who want to succeed in college need to prepare beyond getting good grades.
“How well a student does in college is not a result of how well they scored on AIMS or the quality of the high school itself. Any superintendent could have told you this without a study being done. Poverty is an incredible obstacle to overcome. If this study shows anything, it shows the cultural, emotional and economic differences these kids have to deal with,” he concluded.
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By Linda Kor