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Postsecondary Education

Immediate College Enrollment Rate

Last Updated: May 2021
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The overall immediate college enrollment rate in 2019 (66 percent) was not measurably different from the rate in 2010. In 2019, about 44 percent of high school completers immediately enrolled in 4-year institutions and 22 percent immediately enrolled in 2-year institutions.

Of the 3.2 million high school completers1 who graduated in the first 9 months of 2019, some 2.1 million, or 66 percent, were enrolled in college in October 2019. 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 2019 (66 percent) was not measurably different from the rate in 2010.

Select a subgroup characteristic from drop-down menu below to view relevant text and figures.

Figure 1. Immediate college enrollment rate of high school completers, by level of institution: 2010 through 2019
Figure 1. Immediate college enrollment rate of high school completers, by level of institution: 2010 through 2019

NOTE: Immediate college enrollment rate is defined as the annual percentage of high school completers who are enrolled in 2- or 4-year institutions in the October immediately following high school completion. High school completers include 16- to 24-year-olds who graduated with a high school diploma as well as those who completed a GED or other high school equivalency credential.

SOURCE: U.S. Department of Commerce, Census Bureau, Current Population Survey (CPS), October Supplement, 2010 through 2019. See Digest of Education Statistics 2020, table 302.10.

In every year from 2010 to 2019, higher percentages of high school completers immediately enrolled in 4-year institutions than in 2-year institutions. In 2019, about 44 percent of high school completers immediately enrolled in 4-year institutions and 22 percent immediately enrolled in 2-year institutions. The immediate college enrollment rate for 4-year institutions in 2019 was not measurably different from the rate in 2010. However, the rate for 2-year institutions was lower in 2019 (22 percent) than in 2010 (27 percent). [Level of institution ]
Figure 2. Immediate college enrollment rate of high school completers, by sex: 2010 through 2019
Figure 2. Immediate college enrollment rate of high school completers, by sex: 2010 through 2019

NOTE: Immediate college enrollment rate is defined as the annual percentage of high school completers who are enrolled in 2- or 4-year institutions in the October immediately following high school completion. High school completers include 16- to 24-year-olds who graduated with a high school diploma as well as those who completed a GED or other high school equivalency credential.

SOURCE: U.S. Department of Commerce, Census Bureau, Current Population Survey (CPS), October Supplement, 2010 through 2019. See Digest of Education Statistics 2020, table 302.10.

Immediate college enrollment rates differ by sex. The overall immediate college enrollment rate for male students2 (62 percent) was lower than the rate for female students (70 percent) in 2019. These 2019 rates were not measurably different from the corresponding rates in 2010. In terms of the level of institution attended, the difference by sex was driven by enrollments in 4-year institutions. The percentage of students who immediately enrolled in 4-year institutions was lower for male students (39 percent) than for female students (49 percent) in 2019. However, the percentage of students who immediately enrolled in 2-year institutions was not measurably different for male and female students (23 vs. 21 percent). [Level of institution*Sex]
Figure 3. Immediate college enrollment rate of high school completers, by race/ethnicity: 2010 through 2019
Figure 3. Immediate college enrollment rate of high school completers, by race/ethnicity: 2010 through 2019

NOTE: Immediate college enrollment rate is defined as the annual percentage of high school completers who are enrolled in 2- or 4-year institutions in the October immediately following high school completion. High school completers include 16- to 24-year-olds who graduated with a high school diploma as well as those who completed a GED or other high school equivalency credential. Due to some short-term data fluctuations associated with small sample sizes, percentages for racial/ethnic groups shown were calculated based on 3-year moving averages, with the following exception: the percentages for 2019 were calculated based on a 2-year moving average (an average of 2018 and 2019). Other racial/ethnic groups are not shown separately. Race categories exclude persons of Hispanic ethnicity.

SOURCE: U.S. Department of Commerce, Census Bureau, Current Population Survey (CPS), October Supplement, 2010 through 2019. See Digest of Education Statistics 2020, table 302.20.

Immediate college enrollment rates also differ by student race/ethnicity. In 2019, the immediate college enrollment rate for Asian students (82 percent) was higher than the rates for White (69 percent), Hispanic (64 percent), and Black (57 percent) students, and the rate for White students was also higher than the rate for Black students.3 For White, Asian, and Hispanic students, the immediate college enrollment rates were not measurably different between 2019 and 2010. However, for Black students, the immediate college enrollment rate was lower in 2019 (57 percent) than in 2010 (66 percent). [Race/ethnicity ]
In every year between 2010 and 2019, the immediate college enrollment rate for Asian students was higher than the rates for White, Black, and Hispanic students. In addition, the immediate college enrollment rate for White students was higher than the rate for Black students in every year since 2011; there was no measurable difference between the two rates in 2010. In general, the immediate college enrollment rate for White students was not measurably different from the rate for Hispanic students during this period, except in 2010 and 2018, when the rates for White students were higher than the corresponding rates for Hispanic students. [Race/ethnicity ]

1 In this indicator, “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 2019, about 98 percent of those who completed high school in the first 9 months of 2019 were between 16 and 24 years old.

2 The terms “high school completers” and “students” are used interchangeably throughout the indicator.

3 Due to some short-term data fluctuations associated with small sample sizes, estimates for the racial/ethnic groups shown were calculated based on 3-year moving averages, with the following exception: the percentages for 2019 were calculated based on a 2-year moving average (an average of 2018 and 2019). Other racial/ethnic groups are not discussed separately.

Supplemental Information

College Participation Rates [Status and Trends in the Education of Racial and Ethnic Groups]
Snapshot: College Participation Rates for Racial/Ethnic Subgroups [Status and Trends in the Education of Racial and Ethnic Groups]
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Table 302.10 (Digest 2020): Recent high school completers and their enrollment in college, by sex and level of institution: 1960 through 2019;
Table 302.20 (Digest 2020): Percentage of recent high school completers enrolled in college, by race/ethnicity: 1960 through 2019
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Suggested Citation

National Center for Education Statistics. (2022). Immediate College Enrollment Rate. Condition of Education. U.S. Department of Education, Institute of Education Sciences. Retrieved [date], from https://nces.ed.gov/programs/coe/indicator/cpa.