College enrollment up among Ottumwa High seniors
Ottumwa High School saw an uptick in college enrollment among seniors in 2016, reversing a five-year slide, after a pilot program targeted a phenomenon known as “summer melt.”
“Summer melt” refers to high school graduates who say they intend to go to college—and might even apply and be accepted to college—but never enroll. The effort to fight summer melt emerged as a priority for Cradle-College-Career (C3), a collaboration working to increase college attainment in Ottumwa through the “collective impact” model: partnerships among business, government, nonprofit and educational entities. C3,a Local College Access Network (LCAN) launched in 2014, is one of 11 LCANs supported by Iowa College Aid.
Staff from Ottumwa High School conducted exit interviews with all seniors and targeted 36 students who had not begun the college enrollment process or had made little progress.
Summer activities with staff included:
- Completing the Indian Hills Community College application
- Completing the FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid)
- Connecting qualified students with Job Corps
- Enrolling in and attending orientation for fall classes
- Completing college placement tests
From 2010 to 2015, overall college enrollment among Ottumwa High School seniors had dropped from 68 percent to 50 percent. Enrollment in two-year colleges had dropped from 51 percent to 31 percent. In 2016, both numbers began to edge back up: overall enrollment to 52 percent and community college enrollment to 35 percent. Of the 36 students who had not been on track to enroll in college and were selected to participate in the “summer melt” program, 14 went on to enroll at Indian Hills Community College.
“We're proud of the students who made the decision to attend IHCC,” said Wendy Maas, dean of students at Ottumwa High School. “All students need to recognize that their high school diploma is not the end of their educational journey.”
Next year, C3 plans to expand its summer melt efforts to 60-75 graduating Ottumwa High School Seniors. Iowa College Aid also plans to step up efforts to fight summer melt around the state through the placement of AmeriCorps and VISTA members in Ottumwa, Cedar Rapids, Estherville, Fort Dodge, Muscatine and Sioux City.
“We know the future job market will demand more workers with education beyond high school,” said Karen Misjak, executive director of Iowa College Aid. “These efforts to fight summer melt are crucial to increasing college completion rates in Iowa.”