DataPoints: Fewer recent high school grads enroll in community college

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Of the 3.1 million students ages 16 to 24 who graduated from high school between January and October 2023, 1.9 million (61.4%) were enrolled in colleges or universities in October of that year, according to a recent analysis by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). That’s a bit lower compared to the 62.0% rate in October 2022 and far below the pre-Covid rate of 66.2% in October 2019.

The proportion of high school graduates ages 16 to 24 attending a four-year college or university compared with those attending a two-year college has been rising in recent years, the agency says in its Economic Daily publication. Among those enrolled in a college or university, 74.6% of recent high school graduates went to a four-year institution in October 2023, compared with 25.4% who went to a two-year college. The percentage for community colleges has been steadily declining since its 36.9% rate in October 2018. The sector reached its high point in October 2012, when 43.4% of 16-to-24-year-olds attended a two-year college in the fall after graduating high school that spring.

The report is based on BLS’s Current Population Survey, a nationwide survey of about 60,000 households that provides information on employment and unemployment. The October 2023 data shows that among recent high school graduates who enrolled in community college, half (50.8%) were also working. Overall, 57.6% of two-year college students were in the workforce, compared to 43.7% of four-year college students.

About the Author

Matthew Dembicki
Matthew Dembicki edits Community College Daily and serves as associate vice president of communications for the American Association of Community Colleges.
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