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Chapter 2. School-Related Characteristics

Indicator 17. Immediate Transition to College

Students who enroll in college in the fall immediately following their high school graduation have greater college completion rates than those who delay enrollment (Bozick and DeLuca 2005). The percentage of high school completers who enrolled in college immediately after finishing high school increased between 1980 and 2009. About half of all high school students (49 percent) enrolled in college immediately after high school in 1980, compared with 70 percent in 2009. The immediate college enrollment rates increased at both 2-year and 4-year institutions.  Some 19 percent of high school completers enrolled immediately in 2-year institutions in 1980, compared with 28 percent in 2009. The immediate college enrollment rate in 4-year institutions increased from 30 percent to 42 percent.

The increases in the immediate college enrollment rate were seen for both sexes as well. Some 66 percent of male and 74 percent of female high school completers enrolled in college directly after high school in 2009, compared with 47 percent of male and 52 percent of female high school completers in 1980. The immediate college enrollment rate increased for both sexes in both 2- and 4-year institutions. In 2009, approximately 25 percent of male and 30 percent of female high school completers enrolled in 2-year institutions immediately following high school completion, compared with 17 percent of male and 22 percent of female completers in 1980. At 4-year institutions, the percentage of high school completers who enrolled in college immediately after finishing high school increased from 30 to 41 percent for males and from 30 to 44 percent for females. Immediate college enrollment rates differed by sex overall and specifically at 2-year institutions in 2009.

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17a. Snapshot: In-state Retention of College Freshmen

In the fall of 2008, about 3.0 million students were enrolled as freshmen at postsecondary institutions in the United States, compared to 2.1 million students in the fall of 1992. In 2008, about 2.4 million of these freshmen were enrolled in institutions in their home state, compared with 1.7 million students enrolled in-state in 1992. The in-state retention rate, which is measured as the total number of in-state residents enrolled in institutions within the state divided by the total number of state residents enrolled in institutions in any state, was higher in 1992 (85 percent) than in 2008 (82 percent). California had the highest in-state retention rate in 2008, with 93 percent of California residents who were freshmen enrolled in colleges in California. Utah and Arizona (both at 91 percent) had the next highest retention rates. The District of Columbia had the lowest retention rate in 2008, with 23 percent of District residents who were freshmen enrolled in colleges inside the District. The next lowest retention rates were in Vermont (47 percent) and New Hampshire (53 percent).

The relative ranking among states in 2008 differed from the ranking in 1992. In 1992, Utah had the highest retention rate (94 percent), followed by North Carolina, Alabama, California, and Texas (93 percent for all). The District of Columbia was again the lowest ranking jurisdiction in 1992, when 47 percent of residents enrolled in their freshman year of college stayed within the District. Between 1992 and 2008, Nevada had the greatest positive retention rate difference (11 percentage points higher), while the District of Columbia had the greatest negative difference (24 percentage points lower).

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