High School Benchmarks

With an Updated COVID-19 Special Analysis

National college progression rates for high schools participating in the National Student Clearinghouse StudentTracker service

March 25, 2021

This eighth annual report provides the most current data on high school graduates’ postsecondary enrollment, persistence, and completion outcomes. These data are the most relevant benchmarks for monitoring and evaluating progress in assisting students to make the high school to college transition and earn a credential in a timely manner. The current report examines the immediate college enrollment for the high school graduating class of 2019, persistence for the class of 2017, and completion for the class of 2013. We continue to see large gaps between higher-income and low-income high schools on all fronts.

In response to the increasing need for up-to-date enrollment information during the COVID-19 pandemic, this year’s report features a special look at how the pandemic has impacted the immediate college enrollment rates for the 2020 high school graduates.

Fall 2020 Enrollment Update & Correction (COVID-19 Special Analysis)

Our preliminary fall enrollment results published in December have been updated with the addition of 50 percent more data from high schools and colleges as of November 2020 and restated to correct a process error. This error resulted in an overestimate of the rate of decline in college enrollment for fall 2020 in the previous report. The pattern of disparities in college enrollment along income and poverty lines remain largely the same as originally reported.

Updated COVID-19 Special Analysis Findings

  • Data continue to show little impact of COVID-19 on high school graduation in 2020.
  • The year-over-year percent change in fall college enrollment shows a decline of 6.8 percent, 4.5 times larger than the 2019 rate (pre-pandemic). While smaller than the 21.7 percent estimate reported in December, this remains an unprecedented one-year decline.
  • The pattern of disparities among high schools of different characteristics remains largely the same as originally reported. The pandemic disproportionately affected graduates of low income, high poverty, and high minority high schools, with their enrollments dropping more steeply than their more advantaged counterparts.
  • Urban and rural schools showed roughly equal rates of decline and a larger enrollment rate gap from their suburban counterparts.
  • Community college enrollment dropped the most in low-income high schools while public four-year enrollment remained unaffected by the pandemic for high-income high schools.

Past Reports

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   Report (pdf)

   Report (pdf)

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