First-Time Degree-Seeking Students as a Percentage of High School Graduates, by State (2017)

An indicator of college enrollment in each state is illustrated by comparing the number of enrolled first-time degree-seeking students versus recent high school graduates. At most, this is a proxy for access, although it is clouded by states that have a positive net-migration of college students versus states that have a negative migration pattern. As illustrated below, the average ratio is 87 percent of first-time students vs. high school graduates. At the top end are the college-heavy states, including DC (290 percent), Rhode Island (160 percent), New Hampshire (128 percent), and Vermont (124 percent). Other northeastern states, such as Massachusetts, New York, and Pennsylvania also have percentages at 100 percent or higher.

Also in the positive enrollment states are relatively low-population states, such as North Dakota (122 percent), lowa (113 percent), Delaware (107 percent), and South Dakota (104 percent). Perhaps not surprisingly, Alaska has the lowest ratio (48 percent), followed by Washington (66 percent), Nevada (67 percent), and New Jersey (68 percent).

The reading of this chart must be taken carefully. A high ratio does not imply better than a lower ratio. However, when taken with other indicators it can provide meaning. It is not surprising that northeastern states have high ratios as they host robust public systems with exclusive and selective international colleges and universities. The fact that the Dakotas seem to have a robust system is interesting. Many of us assume that they are not a positive net-migration states, thus, it points to a relatively high college-going rate (evident in this EPIGraph as well).

SOURCE: SOURCE: U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics. Various Tables used by the Educational Policy Institute.

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