How the COVID-19 Pandemic Influenced College Enrollment Rates

A new report from the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center finds that college enrollment rates for 2020 high schools graduates have fallen significantly, especially for students from schools with a large percentage of students from underrepresented groups.

The study found that 65 percent of students who attended high schools that were determined to have large numbers of students from high-income families enrolled in college immediately after completing high school. For students who attended low-income schools, only 45 percent enrolled in college after completing high school. For students classified as attending “high-minority schools” (defined as schools where at least 40 percent of the student body is Black or Hispanic), 52 percent of the graduates enrolled in college right after high school. College enrollment rates dropped in the pandemic year for all groups but were higher for students from low-income and high-minority schools.

The study found that very few of the students from all groups. who did not enroll in 2020, took a gap year and enrolled in the fall of 2021.

The report also examined college graduation rates for students who entered college in 2014 who had earned a degree by 2020. The study found that when minority and income levels were crossexamined, enrollment and completion gaps between higher and lowincome high schools at each minority level were substantially larger than the gaps between high and lowminority schools regardless of income levels. High school graduates from lowincome and highminority high schools completed college within six years at the lowest rate (28 percent), a gap of 24 percentage points from the rate for high school graduates from high-income and low-poverty schools (52 percent).

The full report, High School Benchmarks 2021 National College Progression Rates, can be downloaded here.


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