An agreement between the Arizona Board of Regents and the Arizona Department of Education will track the number of Arizona high school students who enroll in post-secondary education nationwide.
This will help ABOR get a sense of how many students are eligible for post-secondary education and how many apply.
""There's always been a need for this. Arizona's never tracked it before because there's really never been a repository for this data,"" said Katie Paquet, associate executive director for public affairs and external relations for ABOR. ""Education leaders around the state agree that there's a need for this, so we're really excited that we were able to get this done.""
ABOR partnered with the Department of Education to carry out the plan, said Donald Houde, chief information officer at the Arizona Department of Education.
They will use National Student Clearinghouse, a nonprofit organization which does degree and enrollment verification, to track Arizona high school students after they graduate.
The system will be funded by a $2.9 million investment from The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.
In the past, the state only tracked high school students who had gone on to an in-state public university or community college.
""We actually started looking at doing this from a state perspective a couple years ago, but it got accelerated when the Board of Regents decided it was a priority for them also,"" Houde said.
ABOR President Ernest Calderón and Tom Horne, the superintendent for the Arizona Department of Education, thought the tracking system would be beneficial to expand beyond the state's borders.
""(Calderón) saw a need for there to be a comprehensive student records system to track the progress of our students,"" Paquet said.
With this agreement, ABOR and the Arizona Department of Education will be able to see the number of high school students in Arizona who move on to any type of post-secondary education across the country, including trade schools and two- and four-year public and private schools.
ABOR expects to have data from the classes of 2003 through 2008 sometime this spring and data on the class of 2009 by this summer, according to Paquet.
""This is really going to allow us to identify trends in student outcomes,"" she said. ""We're not only going to be able to see where students are going, but we're going to be able to see which students delay enrollment in college, which students drop out and later return, which students transfer from community college on to a university or what students don't pursue a degree at all.""
Paquet added that it will also give the state ""some critical insight into college preparedness efforts and maybe identify some areas where we need to focus on encouraging more students to go to college and finish their degree.""
According to Paquet, in the near future this information could become available to the public. She also said ABOR has not ruled out the possibility of tracking students who pursue post-secondary education outside the United States.
It will cost $41,000 per year for this nationwide tracking system. ABOR is paying for that out of their budget with money leftover from the Regents Innovation Fund.
The fund comes from a proposition that was passed in 2000 which entitles ABOR to six-tenths of a cent from sales tax. The fund supports K-12 schools as well as colleges and universities.