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Two-thirds of Buffalo grads headed to college

The percentage of Buffalo Public School graduates who went on to a two- or four-year college increased to 67 percent for the Class of 2015, putting the district on the heels of the national rate for more affluent districts.

And new data released Wednesday by Say Yes Buffalo show that the rate of college-going graduates has gone up 10 points since 2012, the year before the organization offered its first round of scholarships.

“Over the past few years, we’ve seen a positive trend in the amount of graduates going on to college, and we are confident that we will continue to see increases,” said David Rust, executive director of Say Yes Buffalo.

The gains in Buffalo come even as the percentage of college-going graduates decreases both nationally and statewide. Buffalo’s rate could also go up once updated data is available for students who graduated in 2015, but did not enroll in college until the spring semester. For the class of 2014, those later enrollments pushed the percentage of college-bound students from 65 percent to 69 percent.

Buffalo’s results also outpace the typical performance in communities with large populations of poor and minority students. Nationally, about 53 percent of graduates from those communities go on to college.

In more affluent districts with small minority populations – typical of most suburbs – the national rate of college-going students is 72 percent, just five points higher than in Buffalo.

“The Say Yes Buffalo partnership has provided our students with a reason to work hard and graduate from high school, with the promise of a college tuition scholarship,” said Buffalo Schools Superintendent Kriner Cash.

Say Yes Buffalo is the local affiliate of a national organization that offers full college scholarships to students. Locally, the organization has also expanded its reach to include a number of other services, including summer enrichment programs, mental health clinics and legal services. It also operates a mentoring program and offers students assistance applying for college.

Say Yes uses data from the National Student Clearinghouse, which collects and analyzes enrollment data from more than 3,500 colleges and universities, to track Buffalo graduates and see how they compare to their peers statewide and nationally.

The increase in college-bound students coincides with an increase in the district’s graduation rate, which some city leaders attribute to the scholarship enticement. In 2012, before the first class of scholarship recipients, the graduation rate in Buffalo was 48 percent. For last year’s class it had increased to 61 percent.