Public College Enrollment Plunges for Low-Income High School Grads

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Public college enrollment of low-income high school graduates declined at disproportionately higher rates during the COVID-19 pandemic than the previous academic year, according to a new report released this week by the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center (NSCRC). 

The research titled “High School Benchmarks with a COVID-19 Special Analysis” is the eighth annual report from NSCRC and based on data from more than 2,300 high schools. 

The research found the coronavirus pandemic had no significant impact on high school graduation rates for the 2019-2020 academic school year. However, nearly 22 percent fewer high school graduates went to college during the fall 2020 term.

The data also found a 29.2 percent decrease in public college enrollment among low-income high school graduates compared to a 16.9 drop from higher-income high school graduates. Higher-income high school graduates are 24 percent more likely to enroll immediately in college than those from low-income schools, according to the data.

An October report from the NSCRC revealed community colleges are particularly impacted by decreasing freshman enrollment numbers. 

“These facts help to quantify the significant impediments to college access that low-income students are experiencing during COVID-19,” the December report states.