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Immediate transition to college

How has the college enrollment rate immediately following high school graduation varied over time?


Of the 2.7 million high school completers1 who graduated in the first 9 months of 2021, some 1.7 million (or 62 percent) were enrolled in college in October 2021. This annual percentage of high school completers who are enrolled in 2- or 4-year institutions within the specified time frame is known as the immediate college enrollment rate. The overall immediate college enrollment rate in 2021 was lower than the rate in 2010 (68 percent). Specifically, although immediate college enrollment rates showed no consistent trend over the first two-thirds of this period (2010 to 2018), they declined over the latter third (from 2018 to 2021). There was no measurable difference in the overall immediate college enrollment rate in 2021 compared to 2020.

In every year from 2010 to 2021, higher percentages of high school completers immediately enrolled in 4-year institutions than in 2-year institutions. In 2021, about 43 percent of high school completers immediately enrolled in 4-year institutions and 19 percent immediately enrolled in 2-year institutions. The immediate college enrollment rate for 4-year institutions in 2021 was not measurably different from the rate in 2010. However, the rate for 2-year institutions decreased between 2010 (27 percent) and 2021.

1 In this Fast Fact, “high school completers” refers to individuals ages 16 to 24 who graduated from high school or completed a GED or other high school equivalency credential. In 2021, about 94 percent of those who completed high school in the first 9 months of 2021 were between 16 and 24 years old.

SOURCE: National Center for Education Statistics. (2023). Immediate College Enrollment Rate. Condition of Education. U.S. Department of Education, Institute of Education Sciences. Retrieved March 24, 2023, from

Numbers in figure titles reflect original numeration from source Condition of Education indicators.

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