As we continue to move toward our aspirational goals with collective actions, including through partnership with several Collaborative Working Groups (click here to learn more about CWGs and the current invitation for proposals), it is important to recognize areas where we have seen success so far. This Data Spotlight examines the achievements of our community over the past several years and provides some context for how that momentum can be carried forward.
Increases in High School Graduation Rate
One area our community’s efforts have led to positive results is high school graduation. In 2010, the graduation rate in Santa Fe fell almost 7 percentage points, with only 53% of our high school students graduating on time that year.
Another area where we have seen tremendous success as a community is the production of post-secondary degrees and certificates. Previous Data Spotlights have shown how valuable education, especially in the middle-skills areas of associate’s degrees and 1- or 2-year technical certificates, is to the economic empowerment of our community, and between 2012 and 2015, local degree production increased by almost 50%, largely in those areas.
The number of associates degrees and certificates awarded by Santa Fe Community College (SFCC) has increased by more than 75 percent over the last five years. By aligning its strategic plan to meet the community’s needs, SFCC has worked to increase the impact of each individual award as well. For instance, as part of SFCC’s commitment to collective impact through its participation in the Santa Fe Birth to Career Collaboration (SF B2C), SFCC aligned its strategic plan to B2C career success goals by including the number of healthcare certificates and degrees awarded as a key performance indicator, and the approach has been paying off.
While our institutions of higher learning deserve praise for serving the community’s needs in this way, other data from SFCC suggest external circumstances including Great Recession of 2007-2009 may have played an important role in the success shown in numbers. Likely prompted by the economic downturn when high unemployment can reduce the perceived opportunity cost of attending school full-time , the student population shifted to being much more full-time than it ever had been previously.
At the start of the Great Recession, only 16% of SFCC students were attending school full-time. By 2013, twice as many students – or 32% of the college’s population – took 12 or more credit hours. More students aggressively pursuing their degrees or certificates certainly contributed to the exceptional growth in the number of awards produced in that time period. Since 2013, which is also the high-water mark for student credit hour enrollment at SFCC, the full-time enrollment trend appears to be reversing itself.
Though it might seem less ambitious than our goals for high school graduation, the aspirational target to produce 1,400 degrees and certificates annually by 2020 recognizes both the uncertainty in enrollment trends as the economy continues to improve and slow population growth rates for Santa Fe County.
Expected closing of University of Arts and Design and resulting loss of graduates in its bachelor’s degree program is another factor to consider. To maintain and even modestly increase the high levels of local post-secondary awards by 2020 will take continued commitment from our community.
Interdependency of Birth to Career Outcomes across the Continuum
Outcomes across the birth to career continuum are interdependent with each other, with successes or failures in one area having considerable effect in other areas – sometimes immediately in numbers or ratios and other times in the long term or even intergenerationally.
Take, for instance, one of our other aspirational goals to increase the rate of high school graduates who enroll in college or certificate programs. The flat trend in the number of high school graduates enrolling college coupled with rapid increases in graduation rate has resulted in the decline in the rate of college enrollment rate over the past several years. If we are able to reverse this trend and meet our aspirational goals in college enrollent rate with continuing increase in our high graduation rate, we could see twice as many students going on to college in 2025 than we do today. If those students were then successful in completing their associate’s degree on time at SFCC or another local institution, we could see degree production increase by up to another 282 awards per year by 2027 or 2028. This perspective highlights the importance of not just focusing on high school graduation rate as an indicator for student success as community, but making sure that the graduates are ready for the next phase in their lives and transitioning into college or certificate programs that set them on track for future career success.