More Bartholomew County high school graduates are pursuing degrees in health and in science, technology, engineering and mathematics programs.
Those trends are included in Indiana’s College Readiness Reports, released this week by the Commission for Higher Education.
The data are compiled annually to help schools and communities understand how their students are performing in college.
Local schools have been feeding the STEM pipeline — an attempt to get more students interested in science, technology, engineering and mathematics careers earlier — and it seems to be working.
Of all high school graduates in the Class of 2012 who enrolled in college, 22 percent of Columbus students and 28 percent of Hauser High School students were enrolled in a STEM program. Those numbers were up from 18 percent and 23 percent, respectively, from the previous year.
The local percentages exceed interest statewide in STEM programs, which has been at 18 percent for two straight years.
Health program enrollment saw an even bigger jump, going from 3 percent to 17 percent for Flat Rock-Hawcreek graduates and from 10 percent to 16 percent for Bartholomew Consolidated School Corp. graduates. The local numbers are in line with statewide interest in health careers.
College entrance exams results have shown evidence of the shift to STEM and health degrees for the past four or five years, said Bill Jensen, director of secondary education for BCSC.
He said several factors contribute to this trend:
Freshman courses emphasize career exploration and stress the areas where jobs are available, how much they pay and what positions are in demand.
High school guidance departments stress the demand for STEM jobs when they schedule courses.
Columbus Signature Academy campuses are focused on hands-on STEM curriculum.
Courses at the C4 Columbus Area Career Connection intentionally expose students to STEM careers and incorporate a strong Project Lead the Way engineering program.
Hauser High School students also may enroll in C4 classes, which Principal Shawn Price said is driving interest.
“Our partnership with C4 is very important in that a lot of kids have the opportunity to try those fields,” he said.
The Hope-based district also has a relatively new e-learning director, Jenna Johnson, who has extensive training in STEM education. Price said that, as she helps teachers incorporate electronic media and information into lessons, her STEM background may help give students a chance to explore a STEM career earlier.
The reports show the percentage of BCSC graduates enrolled in college remained at 65 percent for the 2011 and 2012 classes. For Flat Rock-Hawcreek students, the percentage dipped from 58 percent to 52 percent from 2011 to 2012, but the report indicates that’s a difference of only one student.
The reports list only the high school seniors who enroll in college the following fall after graduation, according to the report. It doesn’t take into account students who may elect to take a year off between high school graduation and college.
Statewide, 66 percent of 2012 graduates headed to college, compared with 64 percent in 2011.
Price and Jensen said rigorous coursework for local college-bound students helps them feel better prepared to take on post-high school coursework.
Early-college opportunities, such as taking Advanced Placement courses, help students earn college credit before they graduate, Jensen said. The idea of working ahead begins as early as middle school, where students can earn up to 10 high school credits through coursework.
Students needing remediation
BCSC also is working with post-high school institutions to create a more seamless pathway to college, Jensen said. For example, McDowell Education Center is working directly with Ivy Tech Community College to prepare students for direct admission into the college rather than being referred to remediation.
Fewer BCSC graduates attending Indiana public universities require remediation, but Jensen said he will not get too excited by a one-year change.
The report shows 28 percent of 2012 graduates were not prepared for college-level coursework in math and/or English, down from 37 percent in the Class of 2011.
Jensen said there are problems with comparing the Class of 2011 with the Class of 2012, as they are made up of different students with different strengths. He said until there are more years of trend data — preferably five — it is hard to tell what the numbers might mean in the larger sense.
“We also know that colleges determine remediation needs on a one-time test given during the admission process that may not adequately demonstrate what a student may know or can do,” he said.
Members of the Hauser High School Class of 2012 attending an Indiana public university also required less remediation than the Class of 2011. Price attributes the drop to rigorous coursework and dual-credit classes.
“For a small school, we have a lot of dual-credit opportunities,” he said. “That helps with college readiness.”
The types of courses taken in high school impact students’ readiness in college.
Overall, 28 percent of the Class of 2012 required remediation, compared with 31 percent for the class of 2011.
7 percent of Honors diploma recipients required remediation, the same as 2011.
For Core 40 diploma recipients in 2012, 38 percent required remediation, compared with 41 percent in 2011.
Among general diploma recipients, 78 percent required remediation in 2012, compared with 83 percent in 2011.
Far too many Hoosier students continue to need remediation, which extends the time it takes for them to graduate, said Teresa Lubbers of the Indiana Commission for Higher Education.
The students who need remediation add cost to obtaining their degrees and reduces the likelihood they will graduate at all, she said.
“The cost for college remediation is significant for Indiana students and taxpayers, at nearly $78 million per year in tuition funding, financial aid and direct state subsidies,” Lubbers said.