Fewer high school grads going on to college

Fewer American high school graduates are going on to college, according to new statistics.  Another datapoint for peak higher education?

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Just under 66 percent of the class of 2013 was enrolled in college last fall, the lowest share of new graduates since 2006 and the third decline in the past four years…

538 thinks the main cause is an improving labor situation.

Interesting demographics in terms of gender:

Women still attend college at a higher rate than men, as they have for decades. But the gap is narrowing: In 2013, 68.4 percent of female high school graduates enrolled in college, versus 63.

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5 percent of male grads. In the class of 2009, by contrast, 73.

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8 percent of women attended college, versus 66 percent of men.

An Economic Policy Institute blogger offers this graph:

And race:

The racial disparity in college attendance, meanwhile, shows little sign of improvement. Less than 60 percent of African-American and Hispanic members of the class of 2013 were enrolled in college last fall, compared to 67 percent of white graduates. The numbers are volatile from year to year, but neither gap has narrowed meaningfully over the past 20 years. Moreover, young black and Hispanic Americans also have a higher unemployment rate than whites, suggesting they aren’t choosing to skip college because of strong job prospects.

Looked at in terms of the peak higher education concept, this shows more evidence for declining participation in academia.  Put another way, it’s a sign of a grand market correction.

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Do you think this trend will continue?

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2 Responses to Fewer high school grads going on to college

  1. skjandrews says:

    That is one jagged graph. It is hard to discern a trend from that bottom graph – women down, men up. And it makes me less enthusiastic for 538’s rendering to hear the other parts of the trend. I tend to think the lack of minority college has as much to do with the lack of public infrastructure. So one outlier would be if there is a lot of pressure from people for greater public funding for higher ed. Tennessee thought about free community college for all residents a few months back – it got canned in the legislature, but policies like that might come back if things get back. Protests like at USM could prevent further austerity on the part of states. $15 minimum wage movement could catch on – or Obama’s weaker but still decent $10.10 might also be a possibility, making the job prospects without a BA look slightly better. Finally, the power of finance capital to determine how these things shake out seems important. If deeply indebted college grads don’t find jobs soon, the possibility of a massive default – if not a massive debt strike like Andrew Ross is calling for – would render most of this moot: unless the state plans to start jailing the debtors en masse, creditors will simply cut off the next generation. Maybe this would force the state to step in with funding, maybe it would ensure that the Zombie Lobby gets their way and destroys (aka disrupts) higher ed and turns it into a strictly for-profit, tech-driven system they can manage from their sovereign seasteads. And, in any case, a lack of students heading straight to college after high school is not all that unique of a trend, no? It could just signal more students are going to be “non-traditional” which has been a growing group anyway. So maybe recruiters need to start thinking outside the box about who the ideal student is – and swap their frat and sorority houses for day care centers. Peak higher ed might just be peak “traditional” higher ed. In my experience, this wouldn’t be all that bad since the students who come back to school tend to have a better idea of what they want to do and learn anyway. But that would shift the kind of things colleges should expect of their populations. Interesting stats either way. Thanks for sharing.

  2. amichaelberman says:

    The implication is that this is a demand phenomenon, but supply could be a factor. The California Community Colleges enroll about 2 million students a year, a big chunk of the total college-going population. Over the last 4 years it has become progressively harder to enroll because of budget restrictions. Now that California’s budget problems have been largely resolved (at least for the near-term) the spigots have been reopened and students should be able to get more of the classes they want/need. There may be similar situations in other states. While I doubt this is the only explanation, it could be a significant part.

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