Where are public high school students in CT likely to attend college?

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If you graduated from a Fairfield County public school in 2008, your chances of attending an out-of-state school were two times greater than if you graduated from a public school in New Haven County or Windham County.

Research has shown that where students live has a large impact on their college choices. But in Connecticut, there are stark differences between who leaves the state to attend school, or who goes to a private institution.

TrendCT analyzed data showing what percentage of students from each public high school attends college — and what kind of college they attend. The National Student Clearinghouse tracked students in the class of 2008 for six years, which we wrote about last week. But for this story, we were more interested in where students initially decided to go to college. And we found that there are different rates of students attending private, out-of-state universities based on where they live, among other factors.

Statewide trends

The high school graduation rate in the state has increased over the last several years. In 2013 it rose to 86 percent, 10th highest in the nation. And after graduation, Connecticut students are some of the most likely to go to college — even as college enrollment falls nationwide.

But in 2008, most students opted to stay in state — about 40 percent, versus the 33 percent who left the state for college. (The other 27 percent did not attend college immediately after high school.)

An even higher percentage of students headed to public universities — 46 percent — versus a private one (27 percent).

JoAnne Carter, a college consultant at Education Solutions in Essex, said she is seeing an increasing number of students going to public schools.

“UConn has become so competitive,” Carter said. “We still have students attending private colleges, but the cost has become prohibitive for many families.”

What percentage of students enrolled in university?

Tolland County had the highest percentage of graduating seniors that went immediately to college, with more than three in four of its students enrolled.

Middlesex County followed with 73 percent of its graduating seniors enrolled in college in 2008.

Nearly 40 percent of Windham County’s graduating seniors did not attend college immediately after graduation — the highest of any county.

Who goes to in-state vs. out-of-state schools?

Two of every five Fairfield County high school graduates went to an out-of-state school — by far the highest percentage in the state.

Meanwhile, Tolland County sent the highest percentage of students to in-state schools — 46 percent. Hartford County was second at 43 percent.

Middlesex County had a more even distribution of students attending in-state versus out of state — 40 percent in-state and 33 percent out-of-state.

Who goes to private? Who goes to public?

Fairfield County also had the highest percentage of students who went to a private school — a little over 31 percent. In the rest of the state, that rate was between 20 and 30 percent.

Middlesex County had the second highest percentage (27) of students who went to a private school, either in-state or out-of-state.

National statistics show the likelihood of students’ attending a private institution is very low. Connecticut’s rate of attendance at private schools is higher than most states.

More than half of Tolland County’s class of 2008 attended a public school. Tolland also had the highest percentage of graduating seniors headed to college immediately after their graduation in 2008.

Why might some students go to private, out-of-state schools over others?

Median income versus Private University attendance
Median income versus Out of State college attendance

Students who graduated from a school in higher-income towns, such as Westport, were more likely to attend a private or out-of-state university than those from lower-income areas — something Carter, the college consultant, has observed.

“We do see some demographic differences among students,” she said. “For example, students from towns with lower per capita incomes tend to go to more in-state schools. Students whose parents are college professors tend to go to out-of-state, larger universities like University of Michigan. Students from Fairfield County and the Shoreline tend to be more open to private institutions because of higher per capita income than students from other parts of the state.”

She said that many students she sees are beginning to look toward other areas of the nation, like the south and the midwest, where education comes at a lower price.


One interesting indicator of whether students will go to college appears to be whether they are around other people who have a college degree. Data shows that if there are more college graduates in a town, it’s more likely that high schoolers there will attend college.

On a final note

It is interesting to note that the data reported by the National Student Clearinghouse included only public high schools. It is possible that if the data had included students graduating from private high schools the data could have shown higher rates of attendance at private, out-of-state institutions.

What do you think?

  • Heather Munro Presco

    If UConn is too competitive and the cost of private colleges is prohibitive, then the solution is simple: attend one of the Connecticut State Universities!