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Postsecondary Experiences of High School Career and Technical Education (CTE) Students

What percentage of CTE concentrators enrolled in college? How soon after high school graduation did they enroll, and what types of postsecondary institutions did they enter?

  • By 2000, the majority of CTE concentrators1 from the class of 1992 had enrolled in postsecondary education (65 percent of the total group of CTE concentrators, 59 percent of the CTE only subgroup, and 82 percent of the dual CTE and college preparatory subgroup) (table 1). Nevertheless, among all of the curriculum groups, enrollment rates were lowest for students who completed only a CTE concentration.
  • About three-quarters of all CTE concentrators who enrolled in a postsecondary institution did so within 7 months of their high school graduation (table 1). This immediate transition rate was not measurably different from the rate for general education students, but was lower than the rate for students who completed a college preparatory curriculum only.
  • More than half (56 percent) of all CTE concentrators began their postsecondary education at a community college (table 1), while 37 percent began at a 4-year institution, and 7 percent at another type of institution. CTE students were less likely than college preparatory only students to initially matriculate into a 4-year college and were more likely to first enter a community college or another type of institution. CTE concentrators were less likely than general education students to begin their postsecondary education at a 4-year college.

Table 1. Percentage of 1992 12th-grade students who enrolled in postsecondary education between 1992 and 2000, and among those enrolled, percentage distribution of the elapsed time between high school graduation and postsecondary enrollment and the type of first institution enrolled, by high school curriculum concentration


 Among those enrolled
 Time between high school graduates
and postsecondary enrollment
Type of first institution enrolled
High school concentration Percentage of
students who enrolled1
Entered within seven months Delayed 8-20 months Delayed 29 months or more 4-year Community college Other2
     Total 76.784.87.97.356.539.04.5
Career and technical education (CTE), total64.775.212.312.537.156.16.8
   CTE only58.569.114.816.126.965.27.9
   Dual CTE and college preparatory82.287.67.25.358.037.44.6
College preparatory only91.893.04.03.074.123.82.1
   Core curriculum85.186.57.16.454.241.74.2
   Middle-level curriculum93.493.63.82.675.023.11.9
   Rigorous curriculum95.398.50.80.794.25.10.7
General education68.979.410.610.043.650.16.3
1These students are known as postsecondary participants. Please see appendix A in The Postsecondary Educational Experiences of High School Career and Technical Education Concentrators: Selected Results From the NELS:88/2000 Postsecondary Education Transcript Study (PETS) 2000 for details.
2 Other types of institutions include private 2-year, public and private less-than-2-year, and unclassified institutions.
NOTE: The first column of this table includes 1992 12th-grade students who had complete high school transcripts. The remaining columns are further limited to students with complete postsecondary transcripts. Detail may not sum to totals because of rounding.
SOURCE: Table 5 in Laird, J., Chin, X., and Levesque, K. (2006). The Postsecondary Educational Experiences of High School Career and Technical Education Concentrators: Selected Results From the NELS:88/2000 Postsecondary Education Transcript Study (PETS) 2000 (NCES 2006-309). U.S. Department of Education, Washington, DC: National Center for Education Statistics. Retrieved August 8, 2006 from http://nces.ed.gov/pubsearch.

What proportion of CTE concentrators who enrolled in a postsecondary institution earned a postsecondary certificate or degree?

  • Among the total group of CTE concentrators from the class of 1992 who enrolled in a postsecondary institution, about half earned a postsecondary certificate or degree by 2000, while about one-quarter (26 percent) earned a bachelor's or higher degree (table 2). Dual CTE college preparatory concentrators were more likely than CTE only concentrators to have earned any postsecondary certificate or degree (63 vs. 44 percent), and more likely to have earned a bachelor's degree (45 vs. 16 percent), but less likely to have earned a certificate as their highest degree (4 vs. 10 percent).
  • A higher proportion of college preparatory only students earned a postsecondary certificate or degree than both the total group of CTE concentrators and the subgroup of dual CTE and college preparatory concentrators (table 2). College preparatory only students were less likely to have an associate's degree as their highest postsecondary degree than CTE only concentrators, and more likely to have earned a bachelor's or advanced degree than both the total group of CTE concentrators and the subgroup of dual concentrators.
  • Comparing the total group of CTE concentrators with general education students, there was no detectable difference in the proportion who earned a postsecondary certificate or degree (table 2), but CTE concentrators were more likely to have earned an associate's degree as their highest degree, and less likely to have earned a bachelor's or advanced degree by 2000.
  • About 6 percent of the total group of CTE concentrators had not earned a postsecondary certificate or degree by 2000 but were still enrolled in postsecondary education, while 43 percent had not earned a postsecondary credential and were not enrolled (table 2).

Table 2. Percentage distribution of postsecondary attainment and enrollment status in 2000 among 1992 12th-grade students who enrolled in postsecondary education between 1992 and 2000, by high school curriculum concentration


  No degree
  Earned any Highest postsecondary
credential as of 2000
  Credits earned Enrollment in 2000
High school concentration postsecondary credential Certificate Associate's Bachelor's or higher Total 0-10 11-29 30-59 60 or more Enrolled Not enrolled
     Total61.25.49.046.838.87.412.08.410.97.431.4
Career and technical education (CTE), total50.38.016.325.949.714.015.212.38.26.443.3
   CTE only43.99.917.616.456.116.718.212.19.26.949.2
   Dual CTE and college preparatory63.14.113.845.236.98.69.312.96.25.431.6
College preparatory only74.53.56.664.525.52.75.46.610.85.120.4
   Core curriculum60.54.710.345.539.56.111.79.911.75.534.0
   Middle-level curriculum75.73.96.665.124.32.14.46.311.65.319.1
   Rigorous curriculum87.50.22.085.312.51.01.53.66.53.98.6
General education49.96.58.235.250.110.118.98.812.410.739.4
NOTE: This table includes 1992 12th-grade students who had enrolled in postsecondary education between 1992 and 2000 and had both complete high school and postsecondary transcripts. Detail may not sum to totals because of rounding.
SOURCE: Table 9 in Laird, J., Chin, X., and Levesque, K. (2006). The Postsecondary Educational Experiences of High School Career and Technical Education Concentrators: Selected Results From the NELS:88/2000 Postsecondary Education Transcript Study (PETS) 2000 (NCES 2006-309). U.S. Department of Education, Washington, DC: National Center for Education Statistics. Retrieved August 8, 2006 from http://nces.ed.gov/pubsearch.


1 High school curriculum concentration is determined using the Secondary School Taxonomy (SST), developed for the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), which classifies high school courses into three main curricular areas: academic, career and technical education (CTE), and enrichment/other. This publication focuses on 12th-grade students in 1992 who concentrated in at least one CTE occupational field during high school, referring to them as "CTE concentrators." The postsecondary educational experiences of this group are compared with those of students identified in this study as "college preparatory concentrators" and "general education students." The college preparatory concentrators are further classified into three subgroups based on the level and intensity of their academic coursework: those who completed a core curriculum, a mid-level curriculum, or a rigorous curriculum.

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