Graduates of Alabama public high schools in 2021 entered institutions of higher learning at a slight percentage than the previous year, while the level still remains below pre-pandemic levels, according to a recent analysis from the Public Affairs Research Council of Alabama.
The percentage of high school graduates entering into 4-year universities, however, is tied with the largest amount on record at 32 percent, according to the analysis. The last time this level of recent high school graduates entered into 4-year universities was the class of 2017.
At the same time, the same percentage of African-American high school graduates entered into 4-year universities as white high school graduates in 2021, both at 33 percent. Historically, there has been a gap between both demographic groups in the rate of enrollment into 4-year colleges, according to the study, marking the first time on record that both groups entered at the same percentage.
Hispanic and Latino high school graduates also entered 4-year college at a higher rate than the previous year at 17 percent, an increase of 3 percentage points since 2019.
Levels of high school graduates entering into 2-year colleges continue to decrease, with 23 percent, or 11,389 graduates from the class of 2021 opting for 2-year institutions, according to the study. Prior to 2018, more than 15,000, on average, enrolled in 2-year colleges representing between 30 and 32 percent of the total college-going percentage of recent high school graduates.
“College-going rates have been affected by multiple factors over the past decade,” wrote Thomas Spencer, Senior Research Associate at PARCA and author of the analysis. “Between 2010 and 2020, as Alabama’s high school graduation rate climbed from 72 percent to over 90 percent, the percentage of those high school graduates going immediately into college declined. Some of those additional graduates likely lacked the academic preparation to go straight into college.”
Other factors in the decline of graduates entering into 2-year colleges can also be due to strong economic conditions and low unemployment, along with lasting effects of the pandemic, according to the study, with the overall number of community college enrollees still building back upwards to pre-pandemic levels.