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America's Children: Key National Indicators of Well-Being, 2021

College Enrollment

A college education generally enhances a person's employment prospects and increases his or her earning potential.109 One measure of the accessibility and perceived value of a college education by high school completers is the percentage of these students who enroll in college in the fall immediately after high school. Research shows that high school completers who delay enrollment in postsecondary education are less likely to persist in their education and attain a postsecondary credential.110

Indicator ED6: Percentage of high school completers who were enrolled in college the October immediately after completing high school by race and Hispanic origin, 2000–2019
Indicator ED6: Percentage of high school completers who were enrolled in college the October immediately after completing high school by race and Hispanic origin, 2000–2019

NOTE: Enrollment in college as of October of each year for individuals ages 16–24 who had completed high school earlier in the calendar year. High school completers include recipients of a General Educational Development (GED) or other high school equivalency credential. Data were revised since previous publication in America's Children. Due to some short-term data fluctuations associated with small sample sizes, moving averages are used to produce more stable estimates for the race and Hispanic origin data. A 3-year moving average is the weighted average of the estimates for the year prior to the reported year, the reported year, and the following year. For 2019, a 2-year moving average is used, reflecting an average of the 2018 and 2019 estimates. For Asian, non-Hispanic completers, the moving average for 2003 reflects an average of 2003 and 2004. Beginning in 2003, those in a given racial category represent those reporting only that race. Data from 2003 onward are not directly comparable with data from earlier years. Data on race and Hispanic origin are collected separately and combined for reporting according to the 1997 U.S. Office of Management and Budget standards for data on race and ethnicity. Persons of Hispanic origin may be of any race.

SOURCE: U.S. Census Bureau, Current Population Survey, School Enrollment Supplement.

  • In 2019, some 66% of high school completers enrolled in a 2-year or 4-year college in the fall immediately after graduating from high school. This percentage was not measurably different than the corresponding percentage in 2000 (63%).
  • In 2000, some 65% of White, non-Hispanic high school completers immediately enrolled in college, which was lower compared with the reported 69% in 2019.111 Also, the immediate college enrollment rate for Hispanic high school completers increased from 49% in 2000 to 64% in 2019. However, the immediate college enrollment rates for Black, non-Hispanic high school completers in 2000 (56%) and 2019 (57%) did not measurably differ. Similarly, the immediate college enrollment rates did not measurably differ between 2003 (the first year that separate data for Asian, non-Hispanic students became available) and 2019 for Asian, non-Hispanic high school completers.
  • In 2019, the immediate college enrollment rate was higher for Asian, non-Hispanic high school completers (82%) than for their White, non-Hispanic (69%), Hispanic (64%), and Black, non-Hispanic (57%) peers. In 2019, the immediate college enrollment rate also was higher for White, non-Hispanic high school completers than for their Black, non-Hispanic peers, whereas neither group's rate was statistically different from that of their Hispanic peers.
  • In 2019, the immediate college enrollment rate for female high school completers (70%) was higher than that of their male peers (62%).

table icon ED6 HTML Table

109 Hussar, B., Zhang, J., Hein, S., Wang, K., Roberts, A., Cui, J., Smith. M., Mann, F. B., Barmer, A., & Dilig, R. (2020). The condition of education 2020. U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics. https://nces.ed.gov/pubs2020/2020144.pdf

110 Radford, A. W., Berkner, L., Wheeless, S. C., & Shepherd, B. (2010). Persistence and attainment of 2003–04 beginning postsecondary students: After 6 years. U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics. https://nces.ed.gov/pubs2011/2011151.pdf

111 Because some short-term data fluctuations are associated with small sample sizes, estimates for the race and Hispanic origin data were calculated based on 3-year moving averages, except in 2019, when estimates were calculated based on 2-year moving averages. For Asian, non-Hispanic completers, the moving average for 2003 reflects an average of 2003 and 2004.