Minnesota college enrollment rate jumps

Significantly more Minnesotans who graduate high school are continuing on with some form of postsecondary education, according data released by the state Office of Higher Education.

In its most recent Minnesota Measures report, 78 percent of the Class of 2011 enrolled in a college program within two years -- a big jump from the 68 percent of the Class of 2003.

"I think Minnesota is doing a better job of informing students about their options, including how to prepare for college both academically and financially," said state Office of Higher Education analyst Meredith Fergus.

But Fergus says the percentage of students who drop out during the first year of college remains unchanged at 14 percent.

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"We're getting them into college," she said, "but we're not necessarily helping them stay in college and graduate."

Fergus says the state may need to focus more on helping students through that critical first year, when their chances of failure are highest.

OHE officials said it's the first time the state has compiled such data.

Other highlights of the report:

Eight-three percent of Minnesotans who earned a degree or certificate were younger than 40.

The report states:

If it is Minnesota’s goal to increase the percent of its population earning a college degree or non-degree certificate then getting people to do so by age 39 is key. It is easier to attend college full time before other life’s obligations set in such as marriage, children and a mortgage.

Younger Minnesotans also have more degrees, the report states -- about 50 percent, compared to about 40 percent of those 45 and older -- apparently contradicting claims over the last few years that this generation is less educated than the previous one.

Also, almost a quarter of students were of color in 2012, compared to only 13 percent in 2003. State officials say that's because the minority population in Minnesota has grown.