College-bound high school grads on the rise

Coralie Carlson

U. of Minnesota Daily

MINNEAPOLIS, Minn. (U-WIRE) - An unprecedented number of high school graduates flocked to college campuses last fall, reinforcing the notion that a high school diploma alone can't buy a ticket to a sunny future.

A report released Friday by the U.S. Department of Labor found that 67 percent of high school graduates entered the college ranks across the country in 1997, up 5 percent since earlier this decade.

These record numbers, combined with larger high school graduating classes, put pressure on colleges to support the influx of students.

"Nationally, the colleges have to be ready to serve those students," said Phil Lewenstein, director of communications for the Minnesota Higher Education Services Office.

University of Minnesota officials said high enrollment standards protect the school from an overload of students and a resulting drop in education quality - claiming the standards ensure a balance between access and excellence.

"There is no reason that you have to compromise one to achieve the other," said UM Board of Regents Chairman William Hogan.

For the past two years, the board has held numerous discussions on how to boost the school's rankings without closing its doors to interested high school graduates.

Enrollment numbers picked up partially because more students see the need for technical training, the Department of Labor report said.

"I am delighted to see that more and more of our young people see a college degree as more than just a piece of paper, but rather as the ticket to success in the 21st century," said U.S. Secretary of Labor Alexis M. Herman.

In 1997, enrollment rates among male high school graduates reached 63.5 percent, similar to Vietnam-era levels when men turned to college to evade the draft. Of female 1997 graduates, 70.3 percent went on to college.

The number of high school graduates also continues to rise, amplifying the impact on higher education institutions. But UM officials said bigger graduating classes alone don't account for the school's upswing.

"Demographics account for some, but our numbers run well ahead of that," said Wayne Sigler, Office of Admissions director.

Statewide college enrollment figures, however, don't reveal the same growth patterns as at UM and across the nation. After three years of declines, overall enrollment increased by .07 percent in the fall of 1997.

Minnesota state schools want to augment enrollment and could benefit from the national rise, Lewenstein said.

This article contains information from The Associated Press

Visit The Daily Cougar