How Many Class of ’21 Grads Made it to Community College? 

This summer, Achieve Hartford expanded its Summer Transition program to serve high school graduates from outside of Hartford, including applicants to Capital or Manchester Community Colleges from Bloomfield, East Hartford, Manchester, Vernon and Windsor Public Schools.

During the summer, nine peer mentors who attend CCC or MCC or are recent graduates reached out to the students from these six districts who applied to one or both community colleges.  Fifty-nine percent, or 306 students, had at least one substantial interaction with their assigned staff member.

“We’re very happy to be doing this expansion, especially at a time when students really need the extra support services,” says Chris Marcelli, director of programs at Achieve Hartford.

This year, 61 percent of the 519 Hartford-area students served this summer enrolled in college this fall, according to data from the National Student Clearinghouse (NSC).

This summer, we had the chance to offer mentors to 78 students who enrolled in CCC or MCC in August, shortly before classes started, and we took it. This was something of a failed experiment, Marcelli says, as only 11 students, just 14 percent, engaged with their mentors.

“It is obvious in retrospect that this addition was too late,” he says. “Given only a couple of weeks to do outreach with these new students, you can see very clearly in the data that those students were not engaged. We’ve been told by college partners that while these late-applying students are somewhat more likely to finish the enrollment process, they also have a higher attrition rate.” In the future, we hope to gain data on late-applying students sooner to give us sufficient time to offer meaningful outreach, Marcelli says. 

While our overall numbers grew because we expanded to five additional districts, the number of Hartford Public School applicants shrunk by about one third between 2020 and 2021, from 308 served in the summer of 2020 and 207 served this summer, excluding those added in August.

“We don’t know why this is,” Marcelli says. Based on national reports about the added burden the pandemic has had on low-income and Black and brown communities, we suspect the pandemic’s impact on Hartford families’ income and health played a role.

Nationally, enrollment at two- and four-year public colleges continues to slip, especially at two-year colleges, which dropped by 5.6 percent this year and 9 percent last year, the National Student Clearinghouse reports. Community colleges reported a 6.1 percent plunge in first-year enrollment nationwide. There’s been a 21 percent dip in first-year community college students nationally from 2019 to this year.