National data: Only 63 percent of students immediately enrolled in colleges in 2020

Florida Phoenix | By Danielle J. Brown | July 5, 2022

Only about 63 percent of 2020 high-school graduates or those who completed a high-school equivalent credential immediately enrolled into a two- or four-year college by October of that same year, according to data released by the federal government.

That’s about two million out of 3.1 million “high school completers.” And that percentage is lower or higher depending on race or ethnic groups of students.

For example, Asian students were much more likely to immediately enroll in college post-high school than other groups, with a 86 percent enrollment rate as of October 2020.

Compare that to the next highest percentage category, in which 67 percent of white students immediately enrolled at a college.

The data come from the annual “Condition of Education” report released by the National Center for Education Statistics within the U.S. Department of Education.

The data show that 60 percent of Hispanic high school graduates immediately enrolled in college in 2020. For Black students, it was 54 percent.

Compared to October 2019, the percentage of immediate enrollment post-high school decreased in three groups: white, Hispanic, and black students.

In 2019, the percentages of immediate enrollment for these groups were 68 percent for white students, 57 percent for Black students, and 62 percent for Hispanic students, the report shows.

That could be in part due to the disruptions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, which forced school closures and remote learning beginning in March 2020 affected all aspects of the education world. The the nation’s education system is still on the long road to recovery.

The National Conference of State Legislature said in a 2021 post on the impact of COVID-19 on higher education that “since the start of the pandemic, concerns over postsecondary enrollment have been prominent for postsecondary institutions.”

Asian students were the only category that increased the percentage of students immediately enrolling in college post high school or equivalent credential between those two years, from 82 percent in October 2019 to 86 percent in 2020.

The report provides no context for these differences, but many factors could inform students’ decisions about whether to pursue higher education right away.

For example, in a March post about student loan debt for Black students, the American Civil Liberties Union, a civil rights advocacy group, notes that due to systemic barriers, “Black families have far less wealth to draw on to pay for college, creating barriers for Black communities to access higher education and build wealth.”

Ethnic breakdown

The NCES breaks down the race and ethnicity categories like this:

Asian: “A person having origins in any of the original peoples of the Far East, Southeast Asia, or the Indian subcontinent, including, for example, Cambodia, China, India, Japan, Korea, Malaysia, Pakistan, the Philippine Islands, Thailand, and Vietnam.”

White: “A person having origins in any of the original peoples of Europe, the Middle East, or North Africa.”

Black or African American: “A person having origins in any of the black racial groups of Africa.”

Hispanic or Latino: “A person of Cuban, Mexican, Puerto Rican, South or Central American, or other Spanish culture or origin, regardless of race.”

The center released the report in June to capture what’s going in the United States’ education system through a variety of statistics and analyses. The education data come from federal sources such as the U.S. Department of Education, the U.S. Census. and the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

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