Concerning future expectations, in 2004, high school seniors reported having higher educational goals than their peers did in 1972. Between these years, the percentage of seniors who did not expect to complete high school decreased (19 vs. 5 percent), while the percentage who expected to earn a graduate or professional degree increased (13 vs. 38 percent). This growth in educational expectations was found across demographic characteristics and was more pronounced for females than males. In 1972, more female than male seniors did not expect to complete high school (22 vs. 16 percent), whereas in 2004, more males than females had this expectation (8 vs. 3 percent). In addition, more males than females expected to complete graduate or professional education in 1972 (16 vs. 9 percent), while in 2004 more females than males had this expectation (45 vs. 32 percent).
Among students who were high school sophomores in 2002, some 88 percent of this cohort had received a high school diploma and 4 percent had received a General Educational Development (GED) certificate or other equivalency certificate by 2006, some 2 years after their expected graduation. Differences in high school completion rates were found by demographic and personal characteristics, including educational expectations. For example, greater percentages of those who as sophomores had expected to complete a bachelor's or higher degree (92 to 95 percent) had completed high school by 2006, compared with their peers who had lower educational expectations (63 to 79 percent). In addition, within this cohort, there was variation in the percentage who had ever enrolled in a postsecondary institution by 2006. Overall, 70 percent of the cohort had enrolled in a postsecondary institution. Again, looking at educational expectations, 86 percent of 2002 high school sophomores who expected to complete a graduate or professional degree had enrolled in a postsecondary institution by 2006, compared with smaller percentages of their peers who had expected to complete lower levels of education. These percentages were 75 percent for those who had expected to complete a bachelor's degree, 49 percent for those who had expected to complete some college, and 26 percent for those who had expected to complete high school.