FRESNO, Calif. — New data released by the Public Policy Institute of California shows statewide college enrollment among recent high school graduates will drop 5% in 2020.
The data reveal disproportionate college-going rates by region of the state. For example, the Bay Area and Southern California have seen college enrollment rates as high as 70%. But the Inland Empire and the San Joaquin Valley regions saw lower rates at about 53%.
Enrollment rates report below average for English language learners and low-income students. Asian students are the most likely to go to college at 85%, followed by white students at 68%.
Ben Duran, executive director of the Central Valley Higher Education Consortium said the data reflects the socio-economic issues that exist in the Valley.
“You have regions where they are mostly low-income families,” Duran said. “Much of the Central Valley does not have many college graduates.”
Community college at a four-year university
PPIC data shows that the majority of high school students in the Valley opt for community colleges.
Enrollment in community colleges took a hit in 2020 due to the pandemic, but it is slowly recovering.
“Almost all, if not all, community colleges in the Central Valley have returned to pre-pandemic levels or higher so they can attract and return college students,” Duran said. “A lot of it has to do with cost, a lot of it has to do with access and familiarity with the area.”
Community college students also make up the majority of enrollment at the University of California and California State University in 2022, making up nearly a quarter of UC enrollees, and just under half of CSU enrollees, according to the data. .
Duran says it may be a matter of convenience.
“Students going to community college who transfer to a CSU graduate faster than students who start as freshmen,” Duran said.
The report says that the admission rate to universities can also be attributed to this majority, since the University of California on average admitted only 27% of its applicants in 2022. In contrast, UC Merced – the only Valley campus – has the highest freshman admission rate at 88%.
However, less than 5% of Valley high school students attend a University of California. The south Valley, which includes areas like Tulare and Kern counties, has the lowest rate of high school students attending a UC in the state, at 3%.
Organizations such as the Higher Education Consortium have developed plans to get more students through the college pipeline with proposed measures such as offering high school college credits and improving the transfer process.