More than 1/2 of isle high school grads last year went to college


Hawaii high school graduates are increasingly choosing to attend college.

A total of 53 percent of the state’s class of 2011 enrolled to attend the fall semester at two- or four-year colleges nationwide, according to a report issued last week by the Hawaii P-20 Partnerships for Education. That represents a 3 percent increase over the classes of 2009 and 2010.

The University of Hawaii remains the most popular choice for students statewide, with 40 percent of all high school grads enrolling in one of its 10 campuses for the fall 2011 semester. That number represents 80 percent of the state’s graduates that entered postsecondary education.

On the Big Island, Waiakea, Hilo, Ka‘u and Laupahoehoe high schools all bested the state average for college enrollments, with Waiakea topping the list at 67 percent. Waiakea grads’ enrollment numbers have steadily increased over the last three years, with 62 percent opting to attend college in 2009 and 64 percent choosing to do the same in 2010.

Waiakea tied with three other high schools in the state for second place, with Honolulu’s Kalani High earning the best college enrollment rate of 81 percent.

The Big Island’s lowest college enrollment rates in 2011 were put up by the leeward side of the island at Konawaena and Kealakehe highs, each with 38 percent of their grads moving on to college.

According to Karen Lee, the executive director of Hawaii P-20, the disparity between the number of West Hawaii and East Hawaii students choosing to go on to college could have something to do with the fact that there is currently no UH campus on the Kona side — the UH Center at West Hawaii in Kealakekua is administered by Hilo’s Hawaii Community College.

“Having access to higher education is huge. Just having the campus in the community, being able to see the students, seeing the impact that UH-Hilo has on the east side. It’s helpful for students who are having aspirations of going to college to see that,” she said on Monday afternoon.

“Now that the UH West Hawaii campus is being built, we hope to see that change. … There’s just something about the bricks and mortar being there and being accessible. It says (to a student) that it’s a real opportunity.”

Lee said that Hawaii P-20 was very pleased with the increases in the numbers of students going on to college.

“The fact that it’s gone up by 3 percentage points, we’re very pleased about,” she said. “That means more students are choosing to go to college.

In addition, she said, the Hawaii P-20 report shows that students are being better prepared for college-level courses, with fewer requiring remediation in math and English. Enrollment into college-level math increased statewide by 1 percent, while enrollment in college-level English classes went from 36 percent to 38 percent.

“College and career readiness has been something that there has been increasing awareness of in the state last few years,” Lee said. “The public, in general, is making demands of their children to be ready for the next step. And we would like to believe that shedding light on the data helps people want to move the numbers up.”

On the Big Island, the smallest percentage of students requiring remedial or developmental math courses at college came from Honokaa High, with 22 percent. Meanwhile, Konawaena and Kealakehe tied for first at 26 percent when it came to the island’s lowest rate for graduates needing remedial English classes.

In addition to tracking college enrollment and percentages of students needing remediation, the P-20 report also compares indicators such as students’ scores on AP exams and SATs, as well as the Hawaii State Assessments.

Hawaii P-20 Partnerships for Eduction is a nonprofit statewide partnership led by the Early Learning Council, the Hawaii State Department of Education, and the University of Hawaii System. The group’s central mission “is working to strengthen the education pipeline from early childhood through higher education so that all students achieve career and college success,” according to its website, p20hawaii.org.

Hawaii P-20 states that it seeks to achieve the goal of 55 percent of Hawaii’s working age adults having a two- or four-year college degree by the year 2025. Hawaii P-20 seeks to achieve that by having all children reading at grade level by third grade; strengthening the rigor of the high school curriculum; increasing student access and success in college; and, facilitating program and policy development based upon research and data.