Only 15 percent of Payson High School graduates earn a college degree within six years compared to 18.6 percent of students statewide.
Moreover, about 50 percent of the Payson students admitted to Arizona State University have a “deficiency” in core academic courses, compared to just 26 percent of students statewide.
That means fully half of the Payson High School 2010-11 graduates who attended ASU hadn’t completed all 16 core academic classes in English, math, laboratory science, foreign language, social science and fine arts. Students can still get admitted, but have to make up the missing classes before they can graduate.
Payson High School has only a minimal foreign language program and this year didn’t even offer calculus, required for admission to some top universities.
Scheduling at the high school often limits students’ ability to take electives and things like advanced placement courses.
The figures on college completion rates were included in a report compiled by the Arizona Board of Regents. The figures showed that Payson High School does better than many rural schools, but far worse than the best high schools in the state on both measures.
The report looked at how many of the state’s 2005-06 high school graduates earned a four-year college degree within six years of their graduation. The figures showed that of the 160 PHS graduates, 32 enrolled in college but only 24 percent had received a degree six years later.
Statewide, 18.6 percent of the 2005-06 high school graduates earned a four-year degree within six years, 5.5 percent graduated from a two-year community college, and a discouraging 32 percent started college but didn’t finish.
A total of 43 percent had no education beyond high school at all.
U.S. Census Bureau figures show that the Arizonans with a bachelor’s degree in 2011 had median earnings of $46,485, compared to median earnings for people with only a high school degree of $24,995.
The study showed that Payson graduates had a college completion rate about 24 percent below the state average.
The figures showed the enormous difference between the top high schools in urban areas and the rest of the state when it comes to college completion rates. In those usually high-wealth urban districts, most of the parents have attended college — which remains the single most important predictor about whether a child will get a college degree.
An impressive 72 percent of the graduates from University High School in Tucson obtained a college degree within six years. The institute is an “accelerated” public school in the Tucson Unified School District, formerly known as the Special Projects High School. It’s a school within a school for academically gifted students, located on the Rincon High School campus. Every student must take at least four advanced placement courses, with a total of 28 AP classes offered.
About 71 percent of the students at Tempe Preparatory Academy received a college degree within six years. A public charter school, the academy relies on the Socratic method driven by questions asked by students and limits classes to no more than 22. The school admits students by lottery.
Other top schools are mostly located in wealthy neighborhoods of Phoenix and Tucson, including Catalina Foothills High School, Chaparral High School, BASIS Tucson, Desert Mountain High School, Foothills Academy and Arizona School for the Arts — all with six-year college completion rates above 50 percent.
On the other hand, Payson High School looks better when compared to other rural high schools. Payson’s college completion rate is only a little better for high schools in Blue Ridge, Benson, Nogales, Young, Seligman, Wickenburg, Mingus, Lake Havasu, Ajo and Chino Valley.
Payson graduates have a slightly higher college completion rate than students from Williams, Buckeye, Peoria, Thatcher, Mesa High School, Casa Grande, Tempe High School, Douglas High School, Show Low, Snowflake, St. David and Apache Junction.
Mostly rural schools with college completion rates below 11 percent included Yuma, Gila Bend, Camp Verde, Window Rock, Agua Fria, Holbrook, Safford, Globe, Glendale, Florence, Winslow, Hayden and Bagdad,
The alternative schools in Rim Country fared even worse. The six-year completion rate for Star Valley School was just 5.6 percent and Payson Center for Success and Payson Education Center had no students who completed college within six years.
4-YEAR COLLEGE COMPLETION RATES FOR CLASS OF 2005-06
Arizona Average: 18.6%
Payson High School 15%
University High School 72%
Chaparral High School 55%
Fountain Hills High School 44%
Mountain Point High School 33%
Flagstaff High School 27%
Prescott High School 28%
Paradise Valley High School 22%
Blue Ridge High School 20%
Wickenburg High School 18%
Benson High School 18%
Nogalas High School 18%
Mesa High School 14%
Willcox High School 14%
Douglas High School 13%
Show Low High School 12%
Snowflake High School 11%
Camp Verde High School 11%
Source: Arizona Board of Regents