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America's Children: Key National Indicators of Well-Being, 2013

College Enrollment

A college education generally enhances a person's employment prospects and increases his or her earning potential.112 The percentage of high school completers who enroll in college in the fall immediately after high school is one measure of the accessibility and perceived value of a college education by high school completers.113

Indicator Ed6: Percentage of high school completers who were enrolled in college the October immediately after completing high school by race and Hispanic origin, 1980–2011
Percentage of high school completers who were enrolled in college the October immediately after completing high school by race and Hispanic origin, 1980–2011

NOTE: Enrollment in college, as of October of each year, is for individuals ages 16–24 who completed high school during the preceding 12 months. High school completion includes General Educational Development (GED) recipients. Moving averages are used to produce more stable estimates. A 3-year moving average is the average of the estimates for the year prior to the reported year, the reported year, and the following year. For 2011, a 2-year moving average is used, reflecting an average of the 2010 and 2011 estimates. For data before 2003, the 1977 Office of Management and Budget (OMB) standards for data on race and ethnicity were used to classify persons into one of the following four racial groups: White, Black, American Indian or Alaskan Native, or Asian or Pacific Islander. The revised 1997 OMB standards were used for data for 2003 and later years. Under these standards, persons could select one or more of five racial groups: White, Black or African American, American Indian or Alaska Native, Asian, or Native Hawaiian or Other Pacific Islander. Included in the total but not shown separately are American Indian or Alaska Native, Asian, Native Hawaiian or Other Pacific Islander, and "Two or more races." Also 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. Persons of Hispanic origin may be of any race.

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

  • In 2011, some 68 percent of high school completers enrolled immediately in a 2-year or 4-year college.
  • Between 1980 and 2011, the rate of immediate college enrollment trended upward from 49 percent to 68 percent; however, the rate fluctuated from year to year.
  • In 1980, about 50 percent of White, non-Hispanic high school completers immediately enrolled in college; this rate increased to 69 percent by 1998 and subsequently decreased to 64 percent by 2001. The immediate college enrollment rate for White, non-Hispanics was not measurably different in 2011 (68 percent) than in 2001.
  • Among Black, non-Hispanics and Hispanics, estimates of immediate college enrollment rates have fluctuated over time, very likely due to small sample sizes. For this reason, 3-year moving averages are used to measure the trends. In 1980, the immediate enrollment rate for Black, non-Hispanic high school completers was 44 percent; this rate increased to 65 percent in 2011. Since 1999, the moving average for Hispanic high school completers has increased steadily, from 47 percent in 1999 to 63 percent in 2011.
  • From 1980 to 2011, the immediate enrollment rate for male high school completers increased from 47 percent to 65 percent, and the rate for female high school completers increased from 52 percent to 72 percent.
  • In 2011, a higher percentage of female high school completers than of male high school completers enrolled immediately in a 2-year or 4-year college (72 vs. 65 percent). The enrollment percentage for females was also higher than for males in 1991, 1996–1998, 2000, 2002–2004, and 2008–2010.

table icon ED6 HTML Table

112 Dohm, A., and Wyatt, I. (2002, Fall). College at work: Outlook and earnings for college graduates, 2000–10. Occupational Outlook Quarterly, 46(3), 3–15.

113 "High school completer" refers to those who completed 12 years of school for survey years 1980–1991 and to those who earned a high school diploma or equivalent (e.g., a General Educational Development [GED] certificate) for all years since 1992.