What percent of high school graduates that go to college

According to bls.org, the percentage of high school graduates immediately enrolled in colleges in 2019 is 66.2 percent. Some graduates get to enroll twice for different courses, and others enroll years after graduation due to different reasons such as lack of finances.

The ages of college applicants vary, but educationdata.org records the highest number of post-secondary institution attendants to be that of 18-24 years. This data adds up to 2.3 million candidates. Above the age of 24, the organization records approximately 200,800 candidates for the 2019 fall enrollment.

To further compare the rate of high school graduates to that of college enrollers, the education data look into 2018, where 66.9% of men enrolled in post-secondary institutions, and 71.3% of women did the same. In the same year, 42.8% of high school graduates were not enrolled in colleges

Similar statistics can be compared for 2017’s fall enrollments where 2.9 million students graduated from various high schools in the U.S., but only 1.9 million of graduates enrolled in colleges. This is a 67% rating. Since the year 2000, an average of 67% of students enrolling in colleges has been maintained. This is inclusive of GED students who are accepted by 98% of colleges. 

3 1Learn more statistics about the percentage of high school graduates that go to college in 2020 below.

Stats on High School Graduates That Go to College

  • In Fall 2019, 2.3 million students aged 18-24 and 200, 800 students over the age of 24 attended a post-secondary institution for the first time. 
  • According to college enrollment statistics, approximately 18.2 million students are enrolled in the Fall 2019 Semester. 
  • In the year 2017, 2.9 million students graduated from high school, and 1.9 million (67%) students enrolled in college that fall.
  •  In 2018, overall enrollments in post-secondary institutions showed a decrease in the number compared to enrollments the previous spring. 
  • 42.8% of all students aged 16-24 were not enrolled in school in the year 2018.
  • Between 2000 to 2017, there is a great number of high school graduates enrolled in 4-year institutions than for 2-year institutions.
  • Over 60% of students taking the GED exam showed that they intended to enroll in college. 
  • In the United States this year, it is expected that 14.67 million students will enroll in public universities while 5.24 million students will enroll in private institutions. 
  • In the United States, the University of Phoenix has the highest enrollment numbers. 
  • High school students statistics show that each year, only 1.8 million students graduate.

The Number of High School Graduates in 2023

1. An estimated 3.7 million students are graduating from high school during the 2019–20 school year.

This includes 3.3 million students from public schools and 0.3 million students from private schools. The averaged freshman graduation rate offers an estimate of the percentage of students who receive a regular diploma within 4 years of entering ninth grade. The rate utilizes aggregate student enrollment data to estimate the size of an incoming freshman class and aggregate counts of the number of diplomas awarded after 4 years. The averaged freshman graduation rates presented are based on reported totals of enrollment by grade and high school graduates, in place of details reported by race/ethnicity.

High School Graduates Demographics

By Gender

2. Statistics on high school students show that the college enrollment rates for recent high school graduates between ages 16 and 24 in 2018 were: 66.9% for male students and 71.3% for female students.

Educationdata.org reports that female students have surpassed male students in academic achievement. In 2019, women obtained over 57% of bachelor’s degrees awarded in the U.S. 63% of women pursuing a bachelor’s degree at a four-year public or private non-profit college finished their degree within 6 years, in comparison to 57% of men. As of 2019, women hold over two-thirds of total student loan debt, around $929 billion. About 35% of college-educated US adults (over age 25) usually generate 57% of earnings in the U.S. economy.

3. In the year 2017, the majority of the overall immediate college enrollment was females. 

In addition, more male students attend 2-year universities compared with females. Specifically, 61% of male students enrolled in college after graduation, 24% enrolled in 2-year institutions, 37% enrolled in 4-year institutions, and 72% of female students attended college after graduation.

By Socio-economic Status

4. Most of the students who belong to the lowest quintile pursue an associate’s degree than a bachelor’s degree.

An associate degree (42 percent) is more likely pursued by students from the lowest quintile than a bachelor’s degree (32 percent). On the other hand, students from the wealthiest quintile were much more likely to first strive for a four-year degree (78 percent) than a two-year degree (13 percent). Additionally, more higher-income students who first enrolled at a highly selective college (37 percent) surpassed lower-income students (7 percent). The federal government’s report showed that lower-income students from that ninth-grade Class of 2009 were less likely to attend college within one year of graduating from high school.

5. One-third of students from the lowest quintile of that cohort enrolled immediately compared to students from the top quintile.

Insidehighered.com suggests that approximately one-third of students from the lowest quintile of that cohort enrolled within one year of graduating from high school and were still in college or had attained a credential by 2016, compared to 79 percent of students from the top quintile. Furthermore, 53 percent of students from the lowest quintile either never enrolled or delayed their enrollment by more than a year, compared to nearly 11 percent from the top quintile — 88 percent from this group enrolled in college within one year after high school.

6. In 2019, more higher-income high school students who enrolled in college than those of lower-income high school.

 In the year 2019, 69% of students from higher-income high schools were 25% more likely to enroll in college as distinguished from 55% of students from lower-income high schools. 

7. Students from the highest quintile of socioeconomic status are 50% more likely to enroll in college than those in the lowest quintile (28%). 

42% of students from the lowest quintile of socioeconomic status pursued a 2-year degree contrary to 32% who pursue a 4-year program. 78% of students from the highest quintile of socioeconomic status seek a 4-year degree and 13% a two-year degree. 37% of students from high-income status families first enroll at highly selective institutions contrary to 7% of lower-income students.

By Race

The immediate college enrollment rate by race from 2000 to 2017 was: 69% of white students in 2017 in opposition to 65% in 2000, 67% of Hispanic students in 2017 in opposition to 49% in 2000, 87% of Asian students in 2017 in opposition to 74% in 2000, 58% of black students in 2017 with no significant change since 2000.

8. In 2018, 19.6 million students enrolled in degree-granting postsecondary institutions. 

In 2018, 14.5 million students enrolled in public institutions. By comparison, 4.1 million enrolled in private, nonprofit institutions: 7.5 million white students enrolled in public institutions versus 2.3 million in private nonprofit institutions. 3.1 million Hispanic students enrolled in public institutions versus 460.431 in private nonprofit institutions. 1.7 million black students enrolled in public institutions versus 494,901 in private nonprofit institutions. 994,527 Asian students enrolled in public institutions, versus 266,389 in private nonprofit institutions. 611,129 non-resident aliens enrolled in public institutions versus 356,841 in private nonprofit institutions. 55,241 students of one or more races enrolled in public institutions versus 141,180 in private nonprofit institutions. 105,105 American Indian/Alaskan Native students enrolled in public institutions versus 19,390 in private nonprofit institutions. 33,274 in public institutions were Pacific Islanders versus 10,602 in private nonprofit institutions.

High School Graduation Rates

The average adjusted cohort graduation rate (ACGR) for public high school students in the United States increased over the first 8 years it was collected, according to the most recent report from the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES). In the school year, 2017-2018, the national adjusted cohort graduation rate (ACGR) for public high school students was 85 percent, the highest it has been since the rate was first assessed in the school year 2010-11 wherein it has a percentage of 79. Asian/Pacific Islander students had the highest ACGR of 92 percent, which was above the U.S. average. This was followed by White students with a percentage of 89. The ACGR of Hispanic students was 81 percent which is below the U.S. average of 85 percent. This was followed by Black students with a percentage of 79, and American Indian/Alaska Native students with a percentage of 74.

9. In the school year 2019, the U.S. national graduation rate was 84.6%. 

In this indicator, public schools in the 50 states and the District of Columbia were included, except for the Bureau of Indian Education and Puerto Rico. The adjusted cohort graduation rate (ACGR) refers to the percentage of public high school students in this adjusted cohort who graduate with a regular high school diploma within 4 years. It was in the year 2010-11 when the U.S. Department of Education first measured the ACGR.

10. In the school year 2019-2020, approximately 3.6 million public high school students are graduating from high school with diplomas. 

Specifically, 3.3 million students will graduate from public schools and 0.35 million students will graduate from private schools. This does not include equivalency credentials.

College Enrollment of High School Students

This year’s statistics of high school students going to college is about 14.67 million students. The latest predictions indicate that nearly 15 million freshmen will attend public universities across the United States starting this fall. In regards to private universities, the number of new students is expected to be approximately 5.24 million. This implies that public university enrollment will decline by 0.4% from 2018 while remaining nearly the same for private institutions.

11. In fall 2019, approximately 19.9 million students attended colleges and universities. 

14.7 million students enrolled in public institutions while 5.2 million students enrolled in private institutions.

 12. In 2018, 11.2 million female students were enrolled.

Most of the students enrolled in 2018 were female. About 8.7 million students who were enrolled last year were male students. Regarding the age of 2018 college applicants. Those who were younger than 25 were 12.3 million, while 7.6 million were above that age.

13. There are about 8.7 million male students who were enrolled last year.

Statistics about going to college show that in terms of the age of 2018 college applicants, 12.3 million of them were younger than 25, while 7.6 million were above that age.

14. Among male and female students, the overall immediate college enrollment rate in 2017 was higher among females. 

More male students enroll in 2-year universities than females. 72% of female students attended college after graduation while 61% percent of male students attended college after graduation.

15. In 2018, about 2.2 million students ages 16-24 enrolled in college out of 3.2 million students.

The rate of college enrollment from 2000 to 2018 increased from 63 percent to 69 percent. This includes students who graduated with a regular high school diploma and those who finished a GED or other equivalency credential.

16. It is expected to have a 3% enrollment growth in 2017-2028. 

Experts predicted that the percentage of high school graduates that go to college by the year 2017 will increase by 3% in the following decade. The predicted growth is believed to be substantial, although it is far and away from the numbers we have observed between 2000 and 2010.

Factors Affecting Graduation

For many students, graduating may not be ideal despite going through education in their respective high schools. There are many contributing factors to this, but the majority of the factors are the result of insufficient funding, where these tertiary institutions have a preference of students from wealthier backgrounds. These may result in the imbalance of wealth in the country, where the rich become richer while the poor become poorer since the rich receive a better education than the poor and eventually better employment opportunities in their lives.

17. In 2017, 36% of high school graduates did not apply for financial aid.

There are numerous misperceptions about financial aid available to students pursuing their tertiary education, which includes predatory lending practices by banks, or shoddy advising by high school or their college advisors, which leads to students missing out on opportunities. In 2017, 36% of high school graduates did not apply for financial aid, which resulted in nearly $2.3 billion of financial aid going unclaimed. 49% of high school graduates in 2017 would have qualified for a Pell Grant.

18. Vicinity to colleges and universities can be a huge impediment to high school graduates in rural areas.

Students in rural areas are more likely to face various socioeconomic factors than those in urban areas. 59% of rural high school graduates attend college after high school. In 2017, 20% of residents in rural areas had achieved a bachelor’s degree compared to. 34% in urban areas.

19. Colleges and universities prefer to recruit at high schools in communities where the average family income is above $100,000.

According to a study of 140 institutions conducted by researchers at UCLA and the University of Arizona, colleges and universities prefer to recruit at high schools in communities where the average family income is above $100,000 while forgoing visits to those where it’s $70,000 or lower. They also disproportionately concentrate on private schools. However, people living in rural areas usually are neither from wealthy families nor from private schools.

20. A strong economy is a major factor for the years of decrease in graduation.

It was in 2011 when the last time U.S. college enrolment went up at the rear end of the recession. Unemployment goes down as the economy gets better. It is 3.5% at present and more people leave college or postpone it, and instead head to work.

What Alternatives High-Schoolers have for Graduation?

21. Some countries have the highest rates of tertiary education completion while others do not.

Countries such as the Republic of Korea, the Republic of Ireland, and the United States have the highest rates of tertiary education completion, with Korea having 30%, while in some poorer countries less than 1% of the population have undergone tertiary education.

22. The rates of tertiary education enrollment vary by continent.

In terms of continent, North America has the best rates of tertiary education enrolment at 84% while Sub-Saharan Africa has the worst rates of tertiary education enrolment at 8.6%. Countries are also pooling in more of their GDP on spending on tertiary education, with Ukraine spending the most (2.13%) on tertiary education. Several European and Asian countries, such as Finland, Sweden, Singapore, and Malaysia also spend more than 1% of their total GDP on their country’s tertiary education.

23. After graduating from high school, over half of the European students go on to participate in vocational programs. 

Vocational programs allow participants to learn the technical skills required for their potential occupations which mainly focuses on profession-specific courses for students. Vocational Schools are not unique to Europe, however. Countries such as the United States, Canada as well as Australia also offer vocational schools for high school graduates, though there are differences in the respective education systems as compared to those in Europe.

24. More male students enroll in trade schools.

The majority of students that have enrolled themselves in trade schools are male, standing at a percentage of 94%. A little under half of them are between 22 and 27 of age, with that number being at 45%. Also, more than half of them are high school graduates, having around 56% of students being graduates.

25. Over the years, more students pursue HVAC courses.

HVAC courses have received increasing popularity in recent years as jobs within the HVAC industry allow humans in modern times to enjoy comfort. They are responsible for the heating and cooling systems in homes and buildings, through the installation and maintenance of such appliances and systems. 

Frequently Asked Questions
How many high school students in the U.S?

According to NCES.org, an average of 3.7 million students should be in the high school graduates list of the 2019-2020 class. This is the exact number of students in high school as of 2019. In private high schools, the number of students totals to 0.3 million, while in public high schools, the total number of students adds up to 3.3 million.

There are two ways to get into public high schools in the U.S; you can have your family select the high school they’d like you to attend or wait to be assigned a public school. In 2016, 20% of the students went to high schools of their choice, while 71% went to accredited schools. As for the private school selections, 9% of the students went for that option.

What is the average high school graduation age?

While ages of student enrollment to high schools vary, the standard age is 14 years old, making them graduate at 18 years of age, according to settlement.org. Over the years, we’ve witnessed students graduate high school at tender ages. In 2014, ABC News reported a Californian ‘genius’ who graduated high school at the age of 10. Tanishq Abraham then became one of the youngest Americans to have received a high school diploma.

On the other hand, other students who fail or temporarily drop out of high school may end up graduating at the later ages of 21 to 25. The upside is that the U.S government allows anyone to go back to high school and study to their graduation, ask Fred Butler, the world’s oldest high school graduate, as reported by oldest.org.

How many high school students graduate each year?

Unfortunately, not all students who attend high school get to graduate. This is dependent on many factors, such as fatalities, exam failure, and school dropout. Harvard Institute projected growth in high school student enrollment from the year 2014, reaching as high as 4 million in the year 2020.

According to the U.S. News, the rate of graduation of high school students in the U.S. currently sits at an average of 88% of the total number of high school attendants. The most reputable state, North Dakota, Kentucky, and Iowa recorded the highest rate of high school graduates of about 94% in 2018. The lowest rate falls at 74% and comes from states such as New Mexico.

What percentage of American students go to college?

According to NCES.gov, the current rate of college enrollments lies at 70%, which is an increase from the 2000s of 63%. Not all students get to graduate college due to predicaments such as fatalities, college dropouts, and the like. Other students get to graduate but later than expected due to exam failure, pregnancies, changing of their majors, and mixing work with studies, which leads to fewer hours spent per semester.

NCES reports that in 2017,  60% of students graduated from public colleges. This was lower than the graduation rate at private nonprofit institutions, which lay at 66% and finally 21% from for-profit private colleges.























Helen Vlasova
Helen is the co-founder of admissionsly.com, a career guidance website for students and young professionals. She has a degree in English from the University of Michigan. In her free time, she enjoys spending time with her family and friends, reading, and traveling.

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