Rate of U.S. High School Grads Entering College Continues to Slide

Apr 7, 2014 | 10:01 pm
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college-campus-1385162-mFor the past 50 years, popular wisdom in American culture has said that going to college after high school is the best way to get ahead in life.  And while getting a college education still strongly correlates to increased earnings, new statistics indicate that fewer high school graduates are enrolling in college.  The decreasing rate of college attendance has experts wondering what is behind the trend.

According to the Labor Department, which tracks college enrollment statistics, in 2011 68.3% of high school graduates went on to enroll in college.  In 2012 that figure had dropped to 66.2%, and by 2013 it had dropped further to just 65.9%.  The decline has many experts worried, and wondering if the nation’s college entrance rates will ever go back above 70%, last seen in 2009.

Researchers are struggling to find a reason for the decrease in college enrollment among high school graduates.  Some suggest that an improving job market could be luring a larger number of high school graduates to look for work after graduating, causing them to decide to forgo college in preference of immediate earnings.  Others suggest that, as increasing college tuitions continue to outstrip inflation, many recent high school grads may rethink going to college for economic reasons.

Regardless of the specific reasons for the decline, experts worry that young people are at risk of being “left behind.”  This is because statistics indicate that youth employment is not significantly rising, even as college enrollment is on the decline.  This has given rise to a situation which economist Heidi Shierholz calls being “disconnected“, neither working nor going to college.  Perhaps a silver lining to the statistics is the fact that, according to a recent Gallup poll, three out of four Americans agree that post high school education and training is essential for getting a job.

For more from the Christian Science Monitor, click here.