Sixty-six percent of high school graduates from the Class of 2012 were enrolled in colleges or universities in October 2012, a slight decline from the 68.3 percent rate one year earlier for the Class of 2011, according to an April 17 report from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. The college enrollment rate was higher for young women (71.3 percent) than for young men (61.3 percent).
In addition to the overall decline in college enrollment rates from 2011 to 2012, nearly every student subgroup saw its rate decline as well. One notable exception is the rate for Hispanic graduates, which increased by nearly 4 percentage points from 66.6 percent to 70.3 percent, moving them from fourth in 2011 to second-highest in 2012, trailing only Asian graduates (82.2 percent). As shown in the graph below, the biggest decline was among black graduates, whose enrollment rate fell from 67.5 percent—essentially a tie for second-highest in 2011—to 58.2 percent in 2012, a drop of nearly 10 percentage points.
“The recession convinced many young American high-school graduates to take refuge in college instead of try their luck in a lousy job market,”Wall Street Journal reporter Neil Shah writes in reaction to the report. “[This] research indicates that trend may be unwinding … some high-school graduates are becoming more confident about their job prospects after years of hiding out by going to college.”
Shah notes that the college enrollment rate rose steadily to a record high of 70.1 percent when the U.S. economy sank into recession between 2007 and 2009, but he adds that the current rate of 66.2 percent is the lowest since 2006. “The implosion of America’s construction industry, for example, meant fewer jobs for young men looking for work right out of high school,” he writes. “Now it appears some of these young graduates are going on the job market again.”
Although more young people might be looking for jobs, this does not mean they will be successful. According to the report, the unemployment rate for young people who dropped out of high school between October 2011 and October 2012 was 49.6 percent, compared to 34.4 percent for graduates from the Class of 2012 who were not enrolled in college.
The data was not much better among a larger group of young people—those aged sixteen to twenty-four—who were not enrolled in high school or some form of higher education in October 2012; the unemployment rate for this group was 16.5 percent. Among those without a high school diploma, the unemployment rate was 28.7 percent. The unemployment rates of young men and women with at least a bachelor’s degree were much lower—8.0 percent and 6.2 percent, respectively.
The complete report is available at http://www.bls.gov/news.release/hsgec.nr0.htm.